Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Monster Club Is a Perfect Film To Watch With Your Kids For Halloween

Movies that strike that balance between being entertaining for an adolescent audience and their parents are difficult to find, especially in the horror genre. The 1981 horror anthology film The Monster Club is such a movie. In the British tradition of films such as The House That Dripped Blood, Asylum, Tales From the Crypt, and Vault of Horror, the Monster Club is mostly good, clean fun without the violence and nudity of modern horror films. 

And it should remind one of those classic Amicus and Hammer Horror films, as the director Roy Ward Baker, writer, R Chetwynd Hayes, and producer, Milton Subotski, are responsible for many of those movies. Sadly for fans of this genre, The Monster Club was the last of these British anthologies, but certainly holds its own with those undeniable classics.

What The Monster Club has that some of those films don't is a camp aspect, a great soundtrack, and heaps of collectibles that fans of the movie can look for forever. Among them are the British quad poster, the vinyl soundtrack, one of the most collectible soundtracks ever, comic book art from John Bolton and Dezz Skinn, the book by R Chetwynd Hayes, the Beta and VHS tapes from Thriller Video, and a comic book of the screenplay that was given to all cast and crew at the wrap party. 

There are three stories in The Monster Club. The first tells the story of a tender-hearted monster named Raven Shadmock. He is a meek and retiring creature who wouldn't hurt a fly... normally. But if something really gets a Shadmock angry, they have this power. A power that frightens even other monsters. The power to... whistle.

What happens when a Shadmock whistles is one of the more disturbing moments in the movie, but in my opinion still PG13. 

Then there is a musical interlude of a song titled "I'm Just a Sucker For Your Love" by B.A. Robertson, which leads into the second tale, a story of a domestic vampire in LOndon just doing his best to raise his family. Actually the story focuses on Lictum Bosotski, an anagram of producer MIlton Subotski, who is milquetoasty and bullied at his school. His fortune changes when his mother, played by Britt Ecklund reveals to him of his noble nature, but vampire hunter Donald Pleasance soon catches on and follows the boy home to eradicate his father and the curse of vampirism. The violence in this story is mostly comical.

Then we go back to the Monster Club where the band Night, fronted by iron-lunged belter Stevie Vann plays a song with the lyrics "I'm a stripper," which might not mean exactly what you think it means since the final tale is about a village of ghouls. This final story is the bleakest and most frightening. You might want to watch it first, especially the ending, to see if it is appropriate for your children.

There is a marvelous animated interlude in this story where the history of the village and how it came to be inhabited by ghouls is explained. The artwork by John Bolton here is magnificent, and reminiscent of the best illustrations in Dungeons and Dragons books.

Ghouls are so misunderstood and underreprsented in the horror genre that this vignette is just a gem. The blue filter and gray garb will no doubt turn off a lot of viewers, but this is easily my favorite of the three stories. I'd suggest this final shot will stick with everyone who says this movie has no scares.

But wait, the movie is not over. Not by a long shot. You still get an outro by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, an impassioned speech by Vincent Price nominating R Chetwyn Hayes as a member of the club, and the playing of "Welcome To the Monster Club" and then a complimentary playing of "Monsters Rule, Ok?" as the credits roll. If you're lucky enough to be watching the Thriller Video version Elvira returns and pitches some other Thriller Video delicacies for your viewing displeasure. 

Audiences of all ages should find the Monster Club to be good, clean fun. 

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