You’ll have a bloody good time at this gathering in the movie “Monster Party”

“Monster Party” is a twisted, grisly little shocker that isn’t afraid to grab you by the guts — or to show you a man’s guts cascading to the floor. It’s that kind of movie.

It’s also pretty effective and rather fun, if you have the stomach for this sort of thing.

Chris von Hoffmann’s film introduces us to a trio of thieves who target affluent homes in Southern California. It’s kind of a “Don’t Breathe” scenario, in that they’re the characters with whom we’re suppose to sympathize. Iris (Virginia Gardner) is pregnant with the child of Dodge (Brandon Micheal Hall, miles away from his role on CBS’s “God Friended Me”). Then there’s Casper (Sam Strike), whose dad has a serious gambling problem.

After Casper’s father winds up owing big bucks to some dangerous thugs, the threesome decide to do their most ambitious job yet. Iris works for a caterer and has a gig lined up to serve at a dinner party hosted by the Dawsons, an ultra-wealthy family she’s worked with before. The two guys join her, hoping to make a big score before the night is over.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, things seem odd from the get-go. Patrick, the flamboyant host (Julian McMahon, seemingly MIA since “Nip/Tuck”), is a bit unnerving — he literally seems to sniff Iris. His wife (Robin Tunney) worries about the family pet in the basement. They also have two kids: a perverse, perpetually coiled son with slicked-back hair and a seemingly normal daughter who serves as the Marilyn Munster of the bunch.

The guests — all men, except for a young woman who appears to whisper “help me” to the catering crew — are equally disquieting. They all seem to belong to some kind of 12-step program, and all are alarmingly intense.

You can’t really go much further without spilling some major plot points (which, honestly, aren’t that hard to guess if you’ve seen the trailer). Needless to say, the tables quickly are turned, and our young thieves are soon trying to fight their way out of the party, using whatever weapons are available. And in this house, there are plenty.

As previously mentioned, the gore is heavy, lightened by a solidly perverse streak of black humor that grows bolder throughout the film. Despite the increasing tension, things are not overly morbid under von Hoffmann’s direction, so even when the action gets especially sadistic, there’s a kind of wink behind it.

The performances are solid all the way around. Gardner, in particular, makes a fine, feisty heroine in the Jamie Lee Curtis tradition. McMahon also has a ball: He sports an ascot, a red smoking jacket and vaguely medieval facial hair while he tosses off lines like “I’m ready to make the Dawsons great again” with the kind of joi de vivre that’s unexpected in this type of project.

What Works

As I had previously mentioned, the only thing I had known about Monster Party was that the cast was in fact stacked with some very notable names. A lot of time, films get big actors and the payoff is small. However, I don’t feel like it was that way in this film at all. Robin Tunney (The Craft) was how do I say in the best way possible… timidly cool. I loved her character arch and would have liked to seen her a tad more but overall I’m satisfied as I feel she gave everything to her given role.

Julian McMahon (Nip/tuck) is great as always and to see him play such a semi reformed role was rather appeasing. I really did love this whole cast dynamic. The two major standouts for me were Iris played by Virginia Gardner, who you might all know from recent film that was just released called Halloween 2018.

In my opinion her scenes stole the show in that as well. I except great things from this up and coming actress and hope she continues to stick with the horror genre. The second standout goes to Dodger performed by the ever so talented Brandon Micheal Hall (Tv’s God Friended Me). He implemented the perfect protective boyfriend to the T and beyond. I look forward to his future projects.

The Cinematography on this was impeccable. There were some truly amazing shots, especially the panned camera angels. It was all very well done along with the soft menacing musical score.

I also really dug the concept of what a monster is in Monster Party. It was certainly not what I was expecting, but I absolutely loved the plot (with some exceptions). It really is a fun film.

What Doesn’t Work

First off, I would like to say I really did enjoy Monster Party overall. I do, however, have my qualms with it. First and foremost I felt like the movie took a little too long for the average horror fiend to stick around to get some blood shed at about 40 minutes in. I, myself, enjoyed the concept of the prior scenes but as for a horror film a kill needed to be a lot sooner.

I also felt that some of the deaths were rushed and didn’t have to be had they been done earlier in Monster Party. The only actor that I felt was under utilized was Diego Boneta (Summer Camp, 2015). He is a fantastic actor and this was not the best role to showcase his capabilities. I was not a fan of the weird family twist in this film and even though it gives you a surprising kill scene I think it took away from the what I would have rated higher had a certain character not had been introduced.

INFO:

Rating: NR
Genre: Horror
Directed By: Chris von Hoffmann
Stars: Sam Strike, Virginia Gardner, Brandon Micheal Hall
Written By: Chris von Hoffmann
In Theaters: Nov 2, 2018 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Nov 2, 2018
Runtime: 89 minutes
Studio: RLJ Entertainment

CRITIC REVIEWS FOR MONSTER PARTY:

Noel Murray
Von Hoffman brings some admirable oomph, as well as a good understanding of the many ways that criminals – both poor and rich – exert dominance.

Frank Scheck
Gleefully gory and darkly funny, Monster Party is the sort of extreme genre exercise that separates real fans from mere dilettantes.

Randy Cordova
Pretty effective and rather fun, if you have the stomach for this sort of thing.

Melissa Hannon
‘Monster Party’ features a great cast with some familiar faces, and has a nice blend of gruesome action and twisted story.

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