|The Plot: Jack Brooks is a man with a lot on his mind. His whole life it seems he has been fighting everyone around him. With a temper that sends him over the edge into fury over the most mundane of annoyances, Jack has a hard time making a lot of friends. He’s lucky that he’s been able to hang on to his beautiful girlfriend, even though he’s pretty sure he hates her. Where does this anger stem from? Monsters. As a child, Jack’s entire family was whiped out in front of his very eyes by a hairy monster beast in the woods. No one ever believed Jack’s story, so he ultimately just kept it to himself. After all these years though, that secret is dying to come out. When Jack’s professor needs a drain unclogged at his house, Jack is happy to oblige. He shows up, snakes the pipes – but unleashes something more than just a little sewage. Buried in the back yard is a secret, an unholy evil that just so happens to be resting next to one of those pipes and it isn’t long before that evil is unleashing itself on the world around Jack.|
The Review: Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer kind of crept up on all of us I think. It did for me at least, having just read about it for the first time this past month in Fangoria and then reading praise from my friend Mike Bracken – I knew this one had the promise of being a real classic. The horror-comedy is a tricky genre to master, since comedy in itself is one of the most subjective areas to tackle already. What makes one audience laugh might not appeal to another. In recent years a lot of horror-comedies have breaken with tradition and create new entities within the genre. We’ve seen films that can appeal to the horror fanbase and include them in on the happenings, as with Shaun of the Dead. Another approach is to take things to their silliest points and try to deliver chuckles while remaining within genre context, as with Dead & Breakfast which audiences either reacted very positive or very negative to. Then you’ve got the complete smudges on the face of all that is funny or scary with the entire Horror-Spoof genre created with the Scary Movie series. Jack Brooks however reaches back to the old days of horror comedy, when the comedy wasn’t so self-referential and actually asked its audience to believe in the characters and the crazy predicaments that surround them. I won’t stick my neck out here and now and say that Jack Brooks is the new Army of Darkness, Re-Animator or Dead Alive. However, it could very well be your next favorite horror flick if you’ll give it a chance and enjoy the witty and wild fun of it all – and take in all of the absolutely beautiful latex monster work on display. The film harkens back to the glory days of horror, but doesn’t sink into any mires that new horror fan/filmmakers seem to get wrought in.
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (JBMS) could be best described as a character driven horror/comedy with a lot more heart than budget. Horror fans are used to low budget affairs though, so don’t take that as a negative. JBMS however does provide some very slick looking visuals though and manages to escape the “cheap” feel that such films usually have. If anything could be said, the visual pastiche sometimes comes off a little bit like a made for TV (particularly the scifi channel) movie. What can you do though, it is what it is and the filmmakers worked with what was provided. Regardless of a massive infusion of style, JBMS remains wholly character centered and takes us through the world of Jack Brooks. The character, played with brilliance by Trevor Matthews, is an everyday kind of guy. A bit of loner who keeps to himself, and is easy to identify with. Matthews plays the character with such conviction, when he gets angry it is both hilarious and even a slight bit unnerving due to how real his character feels. He’s a man seemingly ready to snap at just about anything, and he’s so much fun because you never know what is going to put him over the edge or how he will react to any given situation. He has no super powers, but his anger and willpower make him more than just a simple man. He isn’t the one-liner spewing, full of self confidence Ash from the Evil Dead films. If Ash is the Arnold Schwarzenegger of horror/comedy, then Jack Brooks could be seen as a Bruce Willis type of character. Kind of some crazy comparisons, I know, but they do fit the roles accordingly if you ask me. The rest of the cast all equit themselves very well in their roles, with no real amateur performances to speak of. Robert Englund as Prof. Crowley is an absolute joy, and it’s great to see him really tap into some potential in a more comedic role and something other than a dark Freddy Krueger-esque character. He really hits one out of the ballpark as the exceptionally nice Crowley, who resembles a lot of the same qualities Englund exudes in his off screen appearances. If you’ve ever seen the man interviewed outside of a Freddy costume, he really seems like a genuinely nice and caring person and the Crowley character shows a lot of that.
The film isn’t perfect, it is just the introduction for the Jack Brooks character (a sequel is now being planned) after all. The budget seems to restrain the film in many ways, especially after hearing what the director has had to say in recent interviews – and I really can’t wait to see what else might come from these filmmakers. The Jack Brooks series could turn out to be something really special, can’t help but want to recommend it for other horror geeks. You won’t want to miss this one, it’s just too much silly fun to pass over.