Monday, October 19, 2009

Sympathy for the Club: In Defense of The Monster Club

If it will please the court, I do not deny that The Monster Club may not be everyone's taste in horror films. Is it a perfect film? No, far from it, but I ask you what film is? Yes, I've seen The Dark Knight, your honor can you ask the gallery not to interrupt and let me present my case? Thank you.

I first saw The Monster Club on channel 9's afternoon movie sometime in the early 1980's. In a nutshell, Vincent Price plays a vampire who puts the bite on John Carradine's R.Chetwynd-Hayes (playing the real life writer who's stories are the basis of the movie). To make it up to him Price takes Carradine to The Monster Club, where all assortment of creatures of the night hang out so Carradine can get new ideas. Once there we are treated to three tales of monster half-breeds and bands playing early new wave music.

The first tale, The Shadmock, is more a story of heart break than horror. The second, about a bullied boy who's father is a vampire, is the comic segment complete with slapstick. The final tale is about horror director coming upon a town of flesh eating ghouls. His only hope is the offspring of a ghoul and a human woman, who wants to escape and see the outside world.

I didn't realize it when I watching it as a lonely, bullied, wanting to escape kid but the monsters in these stories aren't the Shadmocks, vampire kids, or ghouls. They're the heroes. They're outcasts and society is the villain. Maybe that's why it struck a chord with me.

Also, the tales are rather melancholy and eerie. The only tale with a happy ending is the vampire son's, and even there you get the sense that after the fade out it didn't end well eventually.

Director Roy Ward Baker is probably the best director of horror anthology ever in my opinion. Yes, he didn't have a good budget (the masks the extra's wear in the club is dead give away) but that doesn't stop him from putting some beautiful shots up on the screen.

The only really weird part comes during one of the breaks between stories where bands play. B.A. Robertson performs "Sucker for Your Love" in one long shot (sometimes zooming in a out really fast to make you woozy). For over three minutes they never cut away from the singer's blue tinted face. Even for 1980 it's a strange shot, you'd think they'd at least cut to the rest of the band for a few seconds. In a way it adds to the strangeness of the movie.

The movie ends with a great speech by Price, who asks for Carradine to be given membership to The Monster Club because of how vile and brutal mankind is. Saying, in essence, we are all monsters in our own way. I feeling I know too well.

I ask the jury not to rush to judgement. Is the movie dated, yes. Is the movie low budget, yes. Does it play up the camp a little too much, yes. But the true test of a movie is can it make you feel something, can it touch something in deep inside you. For me, it did and still does.

I now leave it in your hands, and I await your verdict.

Until Next Time, Stay Insane!

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