WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Three teen criminals attempt to rob a Malibu mansion while posing as waiters to its wealthy party guests. Things take a violent turn when the rich are revealed to be more than just obnoxious snobs.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Horror is a film genre that keeps chugging along, despite its black sheep status among film critics and award committees. It’s generally considered low-brow, gimmicky and unambitious. As fans of the genre will tell you, these are unfair accusations refuted by a library of movies that have left bloody fingerprints on the collective moviegoing psyche with more than just jump scares and gore. There are countless examples of horror movies rife with social commentary, originality and artistic flair. Sadly, Monster Party isn’t one of them. Nor does it seem like it wants to be.
Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall), Casper (Sean Strike), and Iris (Virginia Gardner) are wily young burglars who have chosen to alleviate their financial woes by stealing from the rich and giving to themselves. Casper is more desperate than his friends as his father’s gambling addiction has him on the chopping block of an unsavoury strip club owner. How the proprietor of a strip club and a gambler are connected is never addressed, neither is the ostensible need for three waiters carrying trays of appetisers around a party with fewer than ten guests. Many questions you may have about the characters are not adequately addressed, because really that would just delay the bloody killings by too long. Even director, Chris von Hoffman’s camera, appears impatient during scenes of dialogue, with every shot rapidly zooming in on characters while they speak. The intention, presumably to enhance tension, instead devalues the plot and parodies itself, like a fake trailer made to mock an overdone genre.
This isn’t to say that von Hoffman lacks skill in the director’s chair. The early character introductions are shot with a colourful, vibrant aesthetic that unfortunately gives way to a gritty grindhouse tone limited by the lifeless walls of the mansion. The lack of exterior locations, undoubtedly necessary for a sense of claustrophobic terror, means that we feel just as trapped as the protagonists, although I’m sure even as they fear for their lives they’d agree this mansion could do with an interior designer’s touch.
Monster Party tries to say something about class warfare and the sadism of one-percenters but mid-sentence it gives up and switches to sharp objects and a ridiculous rationale for a celebratory dinner party. The reveals are built up with a steady rise in intrigue, but when they arrive, they’re glossed over, and so many character set-ups seem wasted.
By the time you meet the newest addition to the gang of murderers, you may realise that Monster Party isn’t the movie you thought it was going in. I suppose that could count in its favour. You know there will be blood, but you’re never entirely sure whose will be spilt and why.
The best parts go to the villains, capably played by rising star Erin Moriarty (The Boys), and TV stalwarts Robin Tunney (The Mentalist) and Lance Reddick (The Wire). The untapped potential of their stories could have elevated the plot considerably. But again, this would mean fewer slashy murders, of which there are plenty.
There are some similarities to The Purge movies, albeit without the unsubtle political allegory, and some reminiscent of home invasion tight-space thrillers like Don’t Breathe. If movies like these tickle your fancy and you delight in the gruesome deaths of ghoulish yuppies, then Monster Party might be right up your bloodthirsty alley.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: