Monster Man Review

Monster Man’s first scene has a head getting squeezed in a vice, it’s second a Jack Black-alike goofing around in a Halloween mask. The message is abundantly clear: Michael Davis’ feature is concerned equally with both horror and comedy, with the latter element providing the interest. In a nutshell, the film sees a pair of mismatched buddies head out on a road trip (the reasons are essentially unimportant) only to be met by various redneck types, sundry Texas Chain Saw Massacre rejects and the titular monster man. However, the general tone for much of the film is that of the gross-out teen comedy making it come across as an oddball cousin to the likes of American Pie and its ilk. We therefore get the usual maelstrom of piss, shit and tits gags, yet in placing them within the confines of a rough and ready horror flick, Davis’ film comes across as a whole lot more refreshing than Road Trip, say, or Dude, Where’s My Car?.

That said, much of the comedy, when taken on its own, offers nothing particularly new. These scenes are often highly familiar, chirpily scored and utterly predictable in both dialogue and outcome. Moreover, Justin Urich, the aforementioned Jack Black impersonator, also brings to mind John Belushi’s Bluto from National Lampoon’s Animal House, yet does so without any either’s charisma. He’s certainly energetic in the role of the loudmouth buddy, but the one-note macho posturing soon becomes tiresome; it’s as though Seann William Scott was granted the sole lead in the American Pie and as grating as that sounds.

Yet in a roundabout way, Monster Man’s comedic aspects mingle surprisingly well with the horror. Davis has a knack for the low-key jolt and it proves especially effective when inserted into one of Urich’s routines. Often these shocks are as familiar as the rest of the movie – an old hearse ominously appearing on the open road; the sudden reveal of a decapitated body – but the director clearly knows when not to overplay them (surprisingly the scoring is pleasingly sparse) and as such quietly builds up a decent level of suspense during the early stages.

The problem is that any such suspense never really has anywhere to go. Once Monster Man moves into more overt horror territory, Davis simply loses his way. The relative subtlety employed up until this point gives way to broad strokes, an approach that also finds itself into the various twists and revelations. Rather than take Monster Man into any kind of potentially interesting areas, it simply becomes another Texas Chain Saw Massacre knock-off aimed at a pubescent crowd complete with requisite gore levels. As such, the film no longer engages and proves a failure as both comedy and horror. That said, in combining the two it may provoke interest in genre aficionados, though anyone else should give this a miss.

The Disc

Tartan have issued Monster Man as a Region 0 disc and provided it with a fairly decent presentation. Its 1.78:1 aspect ratio has been transferred anamorphically, whilst the film’s distinctive colour scheme – all dirty green and reds - has been faithfully - and vividly - reproduced. Moreover, there appear to be no technical flaws to speak of. As for the soundtrack, Tartan have once again offered up a choice of DD2.0, DD5.1 and DTS options. The 5.1 mix is the original soundtrack in this case and sounds absolutely fine. Indeed, all three are technically sound, though neither the stereo not the DTS options provide a reason to watch the film in a manner other than what was intended.

As for the extras, these are largely disappointing, whilst the disc also lacks the commentary to be found the Region 1 offering. The featurette, ‘The Making of Monster Man, sadly never extends beyond the usual EPK-type “insights”, though we do get some discussion of the film’s pre-selling as a title before a script was even drafted. Also on the disc are the animated trailer which was used as a means of selling the picture to financiers, the theatrical trailer proper and three minutes worth of outtakes. Rounding of the package is the usual Tartan “trailer reel” – see sidebar for details.

As with the main feature, Monster Man’s extras come without optional subtitles, English or otherwise.

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