Starring Claire Bronson, Mary Kraft, Jonathan Michael Green, Cynthia Evans, Travis Young, Adrian Roberts, Bill Szymanski, Ned Hastings
Written & Directed by Jay Wade Edwards
Whether it be atomic age creature features, 1970’s grindhouse horror, or 80’s style slasher flicks, films designed to pay homage to film genres of bygone eras have become a cottage industry all their own in recent years. It’s reached the point that just reading the words homage to in a description about an upcoming genre film is something that sends up warning flags to me. I’m sure a lot of this sudden surge in homage films derives from a general dissatisfaction with today’s cinema, but let’s be honest – a lot of these movies that are supposed to pay homage to a particular genre and are designed to capture the spirit of a particular genre of the past have a tendency to miss the mark, often in a big way. It’s like when I read something on a message board about how Wrong Turn is a great homage to the 70’s grindhouse horror film and then have to spend the next 15 minutes cleaning up all the soft drink I spit out on my laptop. Often these homages are a little too self aware of what they are, especially when the film is paying homage to the monster movies of the 1950s and 1960s. Sometimes playing everything with such a straight face that they only really succeed in making the same mistakes those films did. Stomp! Shout! Scream! pays homage to two genres at once: the monster and beach party films of the 1960s.
Set in 1966, the all-girl band The Violas find themselves stranded in the tiny Florida beach town of Merriville Island on the very same day that a mysterious mound of putrid smelling debris has washed ashore following a hurricane that struck a lower portion of the state. A young girl in a state of shock has been found wandering near the area, unable to tell the authorities as to what has happened to her missing parents… or the missing deputy, pieces of which have turned up strewn about the beach. Young college biology professor John Patterson is called in to investigate the malodorous mound and will soon come to the conclusion that the Skunk Ape (Florida’s very own Sasquatch that is said to roam the Everglades) has set up shop in the sleepy Southern town much to the disbelief of many.
Writer-director Jay Wade Edwards, a producer-editor on the Adult Swim cartoons “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Squidbillies”, has lovingly crafted Stomp! Shout! Scream! to be both a parody of and loving homage to the beach party and monster movies of the 1960s without ever winking at the audience. Edwards didn’t set out to make an outright spoof but a campy recreation of beach party monster movies of the time. The only winking is the shared knowledge that both filmmaker and audience know enough about the genres to identify that which is being distilled anew. From the catatonic girl shocked into consciousness after getting a whiff of the Skunk Ape’s debris (a beautiful nod to the giant ant classic Them!) to the gawky young deputy that continuously annoys the gruff sheriff by constantly correcting him whenever he refers to the alleged creature as anything other than “Skunk Ape” to constant surf rock musical interludes, the man knows his genre and captures the look, tone, and overall vibe of these films almost flawlessly. If you have any affection for the genres in question from this particular era then you’re going to have a hard time not being amused by how accurate he gets the aesthetics. Even the actors’ performances hit the same beats as the actors from those mid-1960s teen themed films.
Stomp! Shout! Scream! fires on all cylinders for about the first 45-minutes. Unfortunately, I felt it was about that point that the film began to lose focus as the Skunk Ape plot almost completely disappears into the background in favor of the romantic woes of Violas lead singer Theodora and hunky auto mechanic Hector. The film seemed to be trying to set up a love triangle with biologist John Patterson also pining for Theodora but that aspect never seemed to take off enough to be anything consequential. Theodora is such a cold fish that’s it’s hard to imagine any guy actively pursuing her for any other reason than her obvious cuteness. Granted, Theodora has a good reason for being so frigid – she hasn’t been in a relationship in five years, her last one having ended badly and leaving her with broken heart and a wicked case of… I won’t spoil it but let’s just say one of the highlights of the film has Theodora singing about a certain type of VD. Still, the romantic exploits of Theodora, Hector, and John Patterson didn’t click for me and began to slow the film to a crawl before it picked itself back up for the finale.
The Skunk Ape looks like a guy in a costume shop ape suit. It looks so much like a man in a monkey suit – it doesn’t even seem to completely fit the actor in the costume – that I was legitimately surprised when the film’s finale didn’t conclude with the Skunk Ape being unmasked “Scooby Doo” style. The one film that kept coming to mind as I watched Stomp! Shout! Scream! was the 1965 rock’n’roll beach party creature feature Beach Girls & the Monster (AKA Monster from the Surf), and if you’ve ever seen it then you recall that the climax features such a revelation. I kind of wish that the film had gone that route since it would have given a little more rhyme or reason to its behavior. The Bigfoot-esque beast’s inexplicable turn from murderous monster to a groovin’ gargantua that kidnaps Theodora Fay Wray-style practically comes out of left field. It makes for a fun finale, but still, it felt like something that could have used a little more set-up.
And I must admit that the ending, while summing things up with a dead on parody of the sort of heavy handed speechifying that many an atomic age monster movie ended on, happens so abruptly to the point of being anti-climactic. In retrospect, the entire third act of the film has the feeling of a production rapidly running out of money so they just put everything into fast forward and maybe even began making some of it up on the spot. Considering the sort of films that Stomp! Shout! Scream! is parodying that may very well have been by design.
Don’t get me wrong. Stomp! Shout! Scream! is quite a bit of fun, gorgeously shot, and a loving homage to a long past era of b-moviedom. I just wish I hadn’t read so many rave reviews from those that have seen it on the film festival circuit that made it nearly impossible for the film to live up to my expectations. Perhaps a tad over hyped, but a fun time no less in spite of some third act issues. I’d have no problem recommending you head over to Stomp! Shout! Scream!‘s official website (link below) and picking up a copy of the DVD.
3 1/2 out of 5