MARCH 26, 2012
I’ve owned the Pure Terror set for quite a while now, but haven’t watched too many movies from it, because most of them are quite bad even by budget pack standards. Monstroid (aka Monster, aka The Toxic Horror) is no exception; in fact it may be the worst of the lot, or at least tied with the woeful My Mom’s A Werewolf. I guess Mill Creek knew what they had on their hands and stocked up Chilling Classics with all the gems in their library. That or I just have poor judgment in picking titles; maybe the other 40 are awesome and I just got all the garbage out of the way.
Anyway, there are two ways one could approach Monstroid’s limited use of the title monster: you can either be thankful that it barely appears, because it’s so terrible looking and lacks even the slightest bit of menace, OR you can be pissed that you have to wait so long to catch a glimpse of the damn thing and you’re “rewarded” with what looks like a bootleg of a lesser Muppet, soaked in water and missing its puppeteer, since it doesn’t blink or have any obvious life to it.
Either way, you realize that the movie sucks; the monster is too lousy to appreciate on a legitimate level, and appears too infrequently to enjoy it ironically. There are only two brief attack scenes in the movie until the final 10 minutes – the rest of it is nothing but talk. And not even talk about the monster! Photography, sonar, dancing, relationship troubles… any of these topics are covered in greater detail than the damn monster. Maybe that’s why they named the movie after him – they probably felt bad for leaving him out of so much of the actual narrative.
Even his origin is a waste of time. If I’m understanding the movie correctly (doubtful, given the woeful transfer that made me feel partially blind AND deaf), he is formed not by the usual toxic waste excuse but concrete being poured into the lake. Huh? Concrete? I had to have heard this wrong. Even filmmakers as inept as this wouldn’t go with such a ludicrous premise. Maybe the monster was already there and the concrete just woke him up or pissed him off? That makes more (movie) sense. I also like the idea that this monster was in there and the only ones who seem to want it dead are evil corporate types, since (again, if I’m following this nonsense) they’re the ones who put the team together to destroy it.
The plan is amazing, too. They stuff a lamb with dynamite and just circle the lake in their helicopter, letting the thing bob around until the monster eats it (whole!), at which point they will detonate the explosives, as if being put inside an animal and chewed up by another wouldn’t already have done that. If Dr. Arzt saw this movie from Lost Heaven I bet he’d be pretty pissed off that he just had to swing a single stick to get blown up while Monstroid can make a snack out of the stuff and be OK. Anyway, the plan is nearly botched when the detonator falls into the lake, so one of our heroes dives in to get it. It’s not too hard though, because the water is super clear for a lake, and surrounded by helpful white walls to provide even more visibility and contrast. Note to filmmakers – if you’re going to fake your damn backyard pool for a swampy lake, maybe try changing the color timing or putting a cover over the surface or something to darken it up a bit?
The only other bit of entertainment I got out of the entire movie (besides a few moments with John Carradine, who is in the film because it’s a low budget horror movie from the 70s and thus there is no alternative that I know of) was courtesy of the asshole who runs the concrete company. No matter what this guy says he peppers it with profanity: “Put on the next goddamned slide!” “What the fuck’s a sonar?” “Read your fucking contract, asshole!, etc. It’s pretty great, and the fact that I often had little to no idea who he was talking to or how it fit into the movie just made it all the more charming. Oh, and they claim it's based on a true story, too. That's always worthy of a laugh.
At this point I should mention what little I learned about the film from the IMDb (it has no Wikipedia page – Wikipedia has pages about bands that released one album, but not even a “stub” for this movie). Apparently they began production in 1971 but ran into money/personnel problems, and it wasn’t finished until 1979. I don’t doubt it for a second, and it would certainly explain the movie’s nearly impenetrable plot and abundance of pointless characters, but I’d be curious to know what parts of the movie were 1971, aka BEFORE Jaws. Because it certainly feels like a post-Jaws movie – the scene with the two drunk fishermen is way too similar to be a coincidence, and other bits and scenes seem lifted or “inspired” from Spielberg’s film as well. Plus, it’d be much easier to dismiss this film as yet another crappy Jaws wannabe than as a just plain terrible movie that was actually trying new ideas in 1971. It also resembles Crater Lake Monster at times, another film that came along later (1976 I believe), so if I had to guess, they had a very small part of a 1971 monster movie that wanted to be Godzilla or something, but they opted to go after some of that Jaws money when it came time to shoot the rest.
It’d probably be easier to tell the difference between the two shoots if the transfer wasn’t sub-Cathy’s Curse for the most part, with the image bouncing up and down like they were projecting it from the back of a truck. In addition, the picture is murky and blurred, and the sound is warbled and tinny – it’s pretty much the worst. It deserves no better, however.
What say you?