Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Monster Club (UK, 1980)

The title for this film and the poster are pretty cool, I wonder if Fred Dekker borrowed the idea for his movie 'The Monster Squad'. Anyway here we have another horror anthology (not Amicus) that's piece de resistance was having Vincent Prince and John Carradine star in the bookend story. Other horror (anthology) regulars such as Donald Pleasence and Britt Ekland also pop up but no Peter Cushing this time. Carradine portrays real life British horror author Chetwynd-Hayes whose stories are what this anthology are based upon.

The film starts off in a fine manner with Price playing a vampire (he didn't play them often...or ever) and biting Carradine in a most polite way of course. To thank Carradine Price takes him to the Monster Club where various ghouls and...errrm monsters hang out and let their hair and fur down. Now this sounds pretty sweet no doubt but I'm afraid to say the entire idea is let down with the most dreadful looking sequences you'll have seen for some time. Think of the Mos Eisley space cantina in 'Star Wars' with all the alien creatures but no where near as good and with terrible costumes.

When I say terrible costumes I mean it, they look like kids Halloween costumes your mum bought at the local supermarket. Absolutely horrendous, so much so in fact I'm not even sure if it was done like that on purpose for comedic relief. What's even stranger is the musical interludes between the short stories, you have a horror tale followed by some weird ass pop group dressed up with bad makeup singing a bad song, was this filler? At one point Price gets up and dances with the monsters on the dance floor...I'm still not sure if I should look on this as uber cool or just a crappy run time extension, its nothing like 'Thriller' so don't get excited.

The actual stories are reasonable but pretty timid frankly, what's more they create new monsters or hybrids which sound daft. The first is based around a Shadmock which is the offspring of...something, I can't elaborate because the sequence where Price explains what monsters are called when they mate with other monsters is so confusing I just ran with it. Basically this creature looks like a pale male human but his whistle can somehow burn things to a crisp? whatever. The story is merely about a couple trying to get a hold of this Shadmocks huge fortune by having the young woman marry him under false pretenses of love. The setting and location are nice and atmospheric, bit of a 'Beauty and the Beast' or 'Phantom of the Opera' type premise but not up to the same standard.

The next short is about a vampire family, well the man of the house is a vampire but his wife and boy are not oddly. Donald Pleasence is part of a secret vampire hunters team that carry violin cases that contain stakes for killing vampires (Robert Rodriguez see this film?). Pleasence follows the boy and eventually talks him into exposing his father even though the boy never knew his father was a vampire. In the end Pleasence gets bitten and must fight off his own men, its very shallow and hardly a horror tale at all, its not even spooky really. It raises more questions than anything but I guess its only a vignette.

The final story is easily the best and revolves around a film director travelling to a small remote village in the English countryside to scout the location. There he discovers a century old race of ghouls that eat corpses. When trying to escape this village of the damned he only gets so far before discovering that more people outside of the village are in fact ghouls and escape may well be futile. Again many questions are raised but the tale is the most interesting and could easily be expanded, its basically your common zombie apocalypse type flick that obviously has lots of similarities with the 1960 film 'Village of the Damned'.

I kinda had high hopes for this film but felt disappointed in the end. Everything looks a bit cheap and nasty and the vignettes are pretty low key with little thrills or excitement to be had. The cast is solid as usual but that doesn't really make much difference, its all about the stories and apart from the final one its all very drab.


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