Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Chad Collins, Natalie Denise Sperl, David Figlioli, Alicia Lagano, Jon Polito
Directed by Declan O’Brien
Someone at the Sci-Fi Channel must have rewatched Galaxy Quest and decided that rock monster in the movie was so neat that it deserved its own film. Though comparing the rock monster of Sci-Fi’s Rock Monster to the Galaxy Quest rock monster isn’t entirely accurate; aside from its faintly insectoid facial features, if anyone ever made a live-action version of the late 80’s “Inhumanoids” cartoon, this CGI rock monster is exactly what I suspect the Granites would look like. Although to continue the toy/toon comparisons, watching the rock monster stomping about, hurling things, swatting people, and slamming old European cars, it brought to mind some sort of stone age Transformer gone amok.
Could I possibly write the phrase “rock monster” more? Not that there’s a reason I shouldn’t; Rock Monster is one of those movies where the title pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. There’s a monster and it’s made of rock; what more do you need to know? So simpleminded is Rock Monster it often makes the finer points of your typical “Power Rangers” episode seem meticulously plotted.
Are you familiar with the old Arthurian legend of the sword in the stone? Young Arthur pulled the sword from the stone and became king of England. Same thing happens here with Rock Monster except when a college kid pulls the sword from a stone, instead of becoming a king the rock comes to life and starts killing everyone until he stabs the sword back into it. The plot never gets much more nuanced than that. Okay, maybe a tad more nuanced than that.
A bus breaks down outside a small remote village somewhere in Eastern Europe (AKA Bulgaria, the current B-movie capitol of the world). This remote village appears to consist entirely of a town square and a single paved road, and virtually everyone in the village talks like a gypsy straight out of a classic Universal monster movie.
Four college friends step off the bus: modestly dorky Jason, his brainy (and somewhat bitchy) platonic female best friend Toni, the token black friend, and the friend with the British accent. They immediately notice a sword sticking out of a stone and take turns trying to pull it out. Jason succeeds, much to the chagrin of the locals, one of which very much wants to shotgun him for dooming them all. Jason’s life is saved by a local dude named Dimitar who looks and talks like a Russian hitman. You can tell Dimitar has ulterior motives given that he looks and acts like a Russian hitman.
Jason will become immediately smitten by a beautiful barkeep named Cassandra (Natalie Denise Sperl, Succubus: Hell Bent vixen, here working a European accent that comes and goes at will), who also – and quite unlikely if I do say so myself – falls for this college slacker. So unbelievable is their romance that by the time they’re sharing their first kiss they’ll already be talking marriage. Don’t suppose he’ll ever have to rescue her from the rock monster, do you?
This rock monster is not a rolling stone so it does gather some moss which it can also use to ensnare people. It even feeds on people in a somewhat spider-like fashion. Much as Captain James T. Kirk once boldly asked why would God need a starship, you’re probably wondering right now why a creature made of pure rock needs to feed. Well, you see this rock monster is not your typical mindless mass of monstrous minerals. Long ago, an evil wizard that looked like Nosferatu with even worse teeth terrorized these lands. Then God was nice enough to intervene by bestowing a magic sword upon a knight “By the power of Greyskull” style. The knight slew the wizard but the wizard’s spirit was not dead; his corpse turned to rock with a sword sticking out of it. Once the sword is removed by a descendant of that knight (i.e. rocks for brains Jason), the wizard’s evil spirit will be reborn in the form of a hulking rock monster. Now it’s up to Jason to go from Prince Adam to He-Man in order to save everyone from a savage slab of sentient sediment.
If he’s not up to the task, there’s always venerable character actor Jon Polito standing by as a crazy Russkie colonel more than ready to go rock tumbling. From the moment he’s introduced giving a whacked out version of Quint’s chalkboard speech from Jaws its clear Polito is more than ready to start chewing the scenery with gusto.
It certainly helps that Polito isn’t the only one clearly having fun in his role. About this time Toni proves herself to be quite the size queen – at least in terms of firearms. She’ll help fight the rock monster with an arsenal of increasingly bigger weaponry courtesy of the colonel.
Toni also develops her own romance with a handsome local who shares her fondness for shooting things. No love for the colonel though.
Let’s make this clear: Rock Monster is not a good movie, certainly not in the conventional sense. It’s dumb as a rock, so rudimentary in its creation that it makes many of the atomic age monster movies seem richly layered by comparison. But just as a good number of those creature features of the Fifties exuded a hokey enthusiasm, so does Rock Monster. Tongue-in-cheek, though never fully committed to being an outright horror comedy, opting instead for a cheeky tone along the lines of “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”, the film is so cheerily good natured that even dead friends go quickly forgotten. Jason and Toni’s two friends will quickly meet a gruesome gravelly death yet their departures from our mortal realm will barely register a blip on their emotional radar. It’s a shame the filmmakers felt the need to include a few moments of unnecessary gore because otherwise Rock Monster would be suitable for all ages and really feels like a monster movie that was meant to be enjoyed by everyone.
Also unfortunate is the third act. Almost all of the giddy energy director Declan O’Brien had built up starts to crumble during the last half hour, losing much of its goofy charm as the focus shifts away from the leftover Rock Lord action figure running wild and more onto Dimitar’s quest for supreme power; the gravelly gargantuan now just a pawn in his masterplan. We’re watching to see the rock monster rock ‘n’ roll, not to see some bald warlock wannabe live out his Skeletor fantasy.
A schlocky B-movie in the purest sense, the quality of the acting, writing, directing, and effects quality is all over the map, if Rock Monster didn’t suffer that third act rockslide into traditional Sci-Fi Channel formulaic dreck territory I could whole heartedly recommend it for fans of campy monster movies. As it is, Rock Monster is fairly amusing and won’t turn you to stone with boredom as far too many Sci-Fi Channel originals are prone to do – at least not for the first two-thirds – even if it does sometimes come across like a movie that’s plot began as words hastily scribbled onto a bar napkin.
And to top it all off here’s your obligatory nod to a certain B-52’s song:
We were at the beach
Everybody had matching towels
Somebody went under a dock
And there they saw a rock
It wasn’t a rock
It was a rock monster!
2 1/2 out of 5
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