Those who aren't familiar with Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! or Roger Corman's innumerous ridiculous monster movies will likely miss the heavy influences they had on Stuart Simpson's newest horror endeavor, El Monstro del Mar. This is Simpson's second attempt at the macabre, his first being a film that he would probably tell you sucks the big one, or at the very least that he was unhappy with it. He was a rookie Director, and threw everything he had into his first attempt at the genre, Demonsamoungus (which is "Demons Among Us" all smushed together).
Monstro begins with a trio of sassy, tattooed, cigarette-smoking vixens stranded on the side of the road in at the intersection of anywhere and nowhere. The scene is shot in black and white which, when combined with the girls' style of dress and choice of music, would indicate the film is set sometime in the fifties or sixties, an undeniable tribute to Meyer's Pussycat. That is, of course, until color rapidly bleeds into the film as a pair of guys that stopped to lend a hand are brutally slaughtered by Monstro's three murderesses. At that point the film shifts into a kind of strange timeline, lost between Meyer's nineteen sixties and Simpson's present day. The girls certainly act old-school, but they also listen to cassette tapes, and at one point one of them even uses a cell phone. It's a veritable medley of pop culture from the ages.
Beretta, Blondie, and Snowball (played by Nelli Scarlet, Karli Madden, and Kate Watts respectively) flee the scene where their terror reigned and go to hiding out in a tiny fishing town, in a would-be abandoned building owned by a friend of Blondie's. Fully stocked with booze, drugs, and music, the jezebels waste no time in getting the party started, but when they blatantly ignore the warnings of the crippled old man next door to stay out of the water and go back to the hole they crawled out of, something terrible awakens from the depths of the sea. Something massive...something ancient. Beretta, Blondie, Snowball, and the old man's beautiful daughter Hannah (Kyrie Capri) are nearly drowned in a tide of blood as they face down the tentacled beast that is...the kraken!
Without being privy to everything that goes into a film like Monstro, it's hard to truly appreciate it for the piece of art that it is. I, myself am guilty of judging a book by its cover from time to time and ignoring what could be the greatest film of all time simply because it dates further back than my tastes prefer or because of a hellacious low-budget appearance. Sometimes you have to set yourself aside from the high-brow drivel that effortlessly seeps in and out of the mainstream media and take on a grittier, riskier film. When you learn of the level of heart and soul, of the effort and passion that was put into it, you'll find that films like El Monstro Del Mar belong in a class all their own.
In an article posted in Fangoria Magazine Simpson talks about how many countless hours he spent rotoscoping the final showdown, during which the girls battle the kraken. Rotoscoping is an animation process in which an animator traces over live action figures to cut them from the frame and then place them over another background. The process was used to effectively have the kraken's tentacles writhing in front of and behind the girls as they battled the creature. This had to be done for every single frame. To think that Simpson nearly scrapped his entire project because of how difficult, painstaking, and time consuming this was to do on his own (probably due to lack of budget) makes the entire film more enjoyable, and ultimately Simpson's efforts more admirable.
One of the more difficult challenges one faces when creating a film where the bad guys are also the heroes is convincing the viewer to root for them rather than against them. Rob Zombie pulled it off in The Devil's Rejects, but Simpson achieved something slightly more. With Monstro, it feels almost as if the three harridans exist in a universe all their own. Their deeds, while immoral and utterly *evil*, are overlooked, almost forgiven even, because they are so wicked that they should kick ass and take names. In their world, butchering innocent men doesn't make them deplorable, but rather exemplifies their awesomeness.
Stuart Simpson had a vision with this film, and he pulled it off without flaw. His influences are clearly defined by how definitively they were used, but he was still able to apply his own vision as well. Every facet of the film, from the music during the opening credits to the amazing talent in the cast (including Australian acting legend Norman Yemm) had a positive affect on the finished product. If anything, Stuart has made me a slightly bigger fan of monster movies.