Monday, May 4, 2020

They Did the Mash

Considering the socioeconomic wars of the 21th century (not to mention the three hundreds years before, at least in this country), it's not terribly surprising to see so many films of recent years tackling the battles of the rich vs. the poor. Here's another one, probably with more innards than most.

Quick Plot: Iris, boyfriend Dodge, and pal Casper are a trio of petty thieves who have a safe, simple system of ripping off wealthy homes, When Casper's gambling addict dad is kidnapped by loan sharks, the team needs to up their stakes with a bigger score. Using Iris's catering gig, they decide to make a big play at the dinner party thrown by the Dawsons at their luxurious, secluded estate.

If you don't read the synopsis listed on Shudder for Monster Party, that might be your stopping point for this review. As you can guess, things go terribly wrong and our petty criminals are left battling for their lives, Ready Or Not-style. If you already know the reveal of the Dawsons' guest list, read on.

As you know from looking at any quick description of Monster Party, the Dawsons and their fancy guests are recovering serial killers, celebrating their anniversary of not murdering strangers. While Casper & Co.'s impending robbery is certainly about to give the addicts' some form of license to relapse, 20something sadist son Elliot doesn't even wait for an excuse: without much fanfare, he decides to brutally kill Dodge.

Casper and Iris are quickly put on defense, with the Dawson's teenage daughter Alexis crossing the class lines to join them. Meanwhile, team leader Milo (the regal perfection that is Lance Reddick) urges his fellow addicts to resist temptation and maintain their celibate non-homicidal ways. 

It gets pretty bloody pretty quickly.

Written and directed by Chris von Hoffmann, Monster Party earns a fair amount of points for originality but loses a few from me for its overall mean streak. It seems to want to mix horror with humor, but it doesn't fully know how to do both. It's unclear who we're supposed to root for, with little real development being given to the haves or have nots. 

Always a treasure, The Craft's Robin Tunney offers an extremely strong presence as the Dawson matriarch, but the script doesn't seem to find her nearly as interesting as the audience probably does (part of this might just be that no script anticipates just how good Robin Tunney is). I lost count of the guests and honestly couldn't remember whose face had already been smashed in and who was still looking to tear a poor teenager apart with his bare hands. 

Still, there's plenty here for a solid 90 minutes. It didn't fully suit my tastes, but von Hoffmann might be one to watch, especially if he gets the crueler, easy kill jokes out of his system.

High Points
This really is a sharp cast, both with veterans who know how to make the most out of something small and a surprisingly likable group of young actors, particularly Jessica Jones' Erin Moriarty (Alexis) and Virginia Gardner (Iris), who was also the best thing in the recent Halloween re-whatever

Low Points
On one hand, I don't necessarily need a deep backstory for an entire dinner party, but at the same time, there are quite a few unanswered questions that feel more frustratingly unanswered than ambiguously asked

Lessons Learned
Nice people don't live in Malibu

It is apparently exceedingly easy to cut someone's limbs off

Katanas have a quick learning curve

There is a freshness to Monster Party that I appreciate, even if the details don't all add up to a fully satisfying experience. It's streaming on Shudder and should be satisfying for most horror fans looking for something fairly fresh. 


  1. Speaking of Robin Tunney, have you ever seen Niagara, Niagara from 1997? I think it's a criminally underrated film, very touching. That's always been my fave film of hers.

    1. I haven't! Never even heard of it, but I adore her and will definitely add it to my list!

  2. Is this a tiny subgenre trend where criminal kids break into a crazy house... Don't Breathe, Crush The Skull, and long ago People Under The Stairs?

    I went into this one blind... and the 'Monster' of the title had me expecting something a bit more monster (werewolf? ghouls?) in it.
    I was still entertained, but I think the writing missed a lot of opportunities. They could have gone bigger/spoofier on the whole recovering addicts angle, ala Ava's Possessions (those trophies in the basement would have been a no no. But I think what it really needed, since the premise is already preposterous, is to give the killers some distinctive personalities... color. Not to the point of being a cartoon... but this was a fairly bland set of maniacs (except for the 'dog' in the basement who was around for two blinks of an eye).

    It was well executed though... could have been sooooo much worse with lesser actors.

    Thanks for pointing it out!

    1. It's SUCH a subgenre!

      And yes, I think there was a lot here that made me want to see more from this director, but definitely using someone else's script. You have Lance Reddick on hand and give him virtually nothing to do?!

      And seriously, I keep finding myself watching mediocre to terrible movies starring some genuinely talented actors. This definitely earned a LOT of points with that cast, especially the two young women.