Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer
Halloween comes early this year for horror fans with a fresh, funny and gory comedy that aims for cult status and hits the bullseye.
Years ago, Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) watched helplessly as his family was massacred by a monster. Now, eking out a living as a plumber and saddled with a harridan girlfriend (Rachel Skarsten), Jack is trying to deal with anger-management issues spawned by his tragic past--unaware that circumstances will soon force him to confront those issues. Those circumstances occur in the form of his night-school professor, Gordon Crowley (Robert Englund), who has the serious misfortune of being possessed by an infernal evil--one that turns him into a voracious, vicious, monstrous fiend. (Gee, has Englund been here before ?) What follows is a fast-paced, fiendish battle to the death--and beyond--as Jack squares off against his former teacher in a giddy, grisly fight to the finish.
Matthews gives a very likable performance as the embittered hero who finds his niche (like the title says) as a slayer of monsters, and Skarsten (in what amounts to an extended cameo) is appropriately, amusingly, bitchy as his self-absorbed girlfriend. There's also a fun turn by David Fox as the cranky, creaky proprietor of the hardware store that Jack frequents. But, in the end, this is Englund's show all the way. Relying less on his status as a horror icon than his comedic abilities, the actor gives a fabulously funny performance as the possessed professor. Not only is this Englund's biggest and best role in a long time, it's a genuine testament to his versatility as an actor--without straying too far from his horror fan base. The actors are completely in tune with the farcical tone of the proceedings, yet they play it wonderfully straight.
This is director Jon Knautz's feature debut, and he makes the most of it. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer straddles the fine line between fear and farce with refreshing confidence. The film pays homage to the '80s horror classics but possesses (no pun intended) an identity and a personality of its own. The film is also enhanced by the fine work of cinematographer Joshua Allen and composer Ryan Shore (nephew of Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore), and it's nice to see a fantasy film that eschews CGI for good, old-fashioned, practical special effects. Some of them are intentionally cheesy, but that's all part of the film's winning formula. That said, and despite the film's many laughs, this is not a film for the squeamish. But for the intended audience of this film, that's even more inducement.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.