Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Robert Englund, Trevor Matthews, Rachel Skarsten, James A. Woods, Daniel Kash
Directed by Jon Knautz
When he was just a young boy, Jack Brooks (Matthews) loved going camping with his family. They would go all the time and always had great fun together. Then one night, while they’re all minding their own business, some sort of wild beast creature invaded the camp and slaughtered everyone; his sister, father and mother. Luckily, though, Jack managed to get away while the beast was busy feasting.
Ever since then he’s had some anger management issues.
Now he’s in his 30’s, working as a plumber and taking a night school course with his girlfriend (at her insistence, of course). The subject is science, the teacher is Prof. Crowley (Englund) and the results are Jack being bored out of his mind most nights and still not having a good place to vent his anger. If nothing else the class gives him even more to deal with. Professor Crowley knows that Jack’s a plumber and one night asks if Jack’d be willing to make the trip out to his place in the middle of nowhere to look at some issues he’s having with his pipes.
Unbeknownst to either of them, Crowley lives in a house where a boy once had to put down his uncle when the spirit of some ancient Japanese monster possessed him, and now he’s buried in the backyard. Jack’s not a very good plumber, you see, and only manages to make things worse, causing some sort of ethereal gas to escape the yard, which takes over Crowley in the middle of the night. Pretty soon he’s acting stranger and stranger, eating almost nonstop and belching and farting constantly. Something is very wrong with him.
When that wrongness finally boils over and he mutates into a tentacled monstrosity that begins to transform his students into monsters themselves is when Jack suddenly realizes his anger can finally be put to good use.
The only problem I had with Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is that it takes far too long to get to any actual monster slaying. There’s way too much story preceding the monster bashing goodness that eventually goes down in the halls of the school, when indeed it could’ve taken less than the first act to get us there, giving more time for Jack to go out kicking monster ass.
Alas, it is not to be, but really that’s a minor complaint when put up against all that Jack Brooks has going for it. First and foremost it has a really great cast; Matthews is perfect as a normal guy who just wants to have a normal life but keeps punching everyone who just slightly pisses him off, which obviously does him no good. Englund is given so much scenery to chew, and relishes it greatly, which is wonderful to see. Even Brooks’ girlfriend Eve (Skarsten) does a great job of being an incredibly annoying bitch!
But all of that pales in comparison to the monsters; from the first one shown on screen in the film’s opening minutes, which thankfully comes back at the end, you can tell that a good chunk of this film’s budget was spent on making sure they had some of the coolest creatures to grace our screens in years. I defy anyone out there to point out a single shot done with CGI; yes, even the tentacles are done practical and look that much more menacing for it. If only The Mist had learned from this film…
The overall tone of Jack Brooks is a big help, too. There’s a light-heartedness that runs throughout, though it never gets to the point of out-and-out comedy. It’s a fun movie from top to bottom, even if the middle does tend to drag on a bit longer than it needs to.
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is really a movie you need to see with a crowd; I lament that we missed it at Fantasia this year (for a wildly different opinion on the film, “>read the review by our guy who did see it…) and I hope Anchor Bay is able to do more screenings of it before it’s eventual DVD release.
So, yes, believe the hype for Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer; this is a fun, monster-filled movie that knows exactly what it wants to be and I hope only the first of many movies in what could easily be a really kickass franchise.
Visit the official Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer site to learn more!
4 out of 5
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