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  Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer

Starring: Trevor Matthews, Robert Englund, Rachel Skarsten, Daniel Kash

Directed by: John Knautz

Produced by: Neil Bregman, Trevor Matthews, Patrick White

Written by: John Ainsle & Jon Knautz (sceenplay & story), Trevor Matthews & Patrick White (story)

Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment


     When does an homage to poorly-made B-movies stop being an homage and actually become a B-movie itself? Such is the unavoidable dilemma that keeps me from praising Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, an inoffensive, well-meaning cornball of a monster flick that exists in large part to pay dues to the Ed Woods of the film industry’s past. On one hand, the movie nails its genre on the forehead, structurally and tonally capturing the joyful silliness of the monster-movies that have come before it. On the contrary, however, this mastery of style only wins the movie a minimal entertainment-value. By the time that Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer reaches its third act, viewers will have long tired of its embrace/semi-parodying of monster-movie conventions. At a certain point, the film ultimately cements itself as a replication of its inspirations rather than an ode to them. I think we can all agree that nobody needs another stock 1950s/'80s creature-feature to add to the already gargantuan library.

     The movie’s plot thankfully keeps things simple—the results are usually disastrous when this type of picture gets overcomplicated—but unfortunately doesn’t add much to the mix in the way of interesting visuals, fresh character-traits, or thoughtful themes. In other words: it’s largely a straight-up send-off to its monster-movie counterparts in terms of content. The protagonist is the titular Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews), a plumber and nighttime city-college student who harbors a great anger problem due to the brutal, unresolved death of his family via monster at a young age. Jack’s frustrations, however, may just be on their way to finding a much-needed outlet that his off-again-on-again psychiatrist Dr. Silverstein (Daniel Cash) has never been able to find for them. The young man is one night asked to fix the piping in his elusive science professor’s (Robert Englund) out-in-the-sticks, hilltop home, a deed that he hopes will add a few points onto his failing-grade in the class. The problem, however, turns out to be a lot more than just pipes; rather, it’s an ages-old curse that very well may breed some monsters of its own. With a tragic, vengeance-needing past in tow, Jack proves the perfect guy to take said monsters on.

     Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, despite the shortcomings of its story, does contain a few redeeming features that allow it to remain a semi-diverting experience. The most valuable asset the movie is able to boast is the presence of the always-reliable horror-actor Robert Englund, whose performance encapsulates the movie’s best quality: its balance of straightforward narrative mythology and silly tonal playfulness. Englund is able to play Jack’s professor, Crowley, straight enough that he maintains the character’s place in the story, but also goofy enough so as to allow an ample amount of dependable gross-out moments related to his character’s inevitable physical-transformation in the film’s second act. (One passage involving vomit earns the obligatory “Agghhs!”) Matching Englund most of the way is lead Trevor Matthews who, sans a few blown lines, is also able to keep the aforementioned balance in check. Also on the movie’s side is that it only runs for eighty-five minutes, a petite duration that never allows it to cross over into the realm of painful viewing experiences.

     But alas, the movie ultimately succumbs to the clichéd and unadventurous nature that most monster-movies do. As I watched the film lock itself into a state of mediocrity as it progressed, I couldn’t help but regret that co-writer/director Jon Knautz didn’t step up to provide the project the sense of originality that it desperately needed. It’s actually something of a shame that Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer’s content is as stale as it is; had the movie had an identifiable purpose for existing beyond mere simulacrum, its stylistic components would’ve largely supported a successful and engaging effort.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 8.14.2008

Screened on: 8.12.2008 at home on a screener DVD.


Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is rated R and runs 90 minutes.

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