Michael Bailey Smith
Robert R. Shafer
Horror Comedy Road Movie
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Monster Man (2004)
14th Mar 05
A cross country mission to stop a wedding turns into the road trip from hell, complete with road kill sex, a demon monster truck, a village of redneck amputees, Yoda dirty talk and the most disgusting service station toilet you’ll ever see.
When the object of your unrequited love sends you an invite to her wedding, what do you do about it? For Adam there's only one thing for it; drive cross-country, express your undying love for Betty-Ann and hopefully stop the whole show. At least that's the plan, anyway. What Adam didn't bank on was his former best-buddy Harley hitching a ride with him, neither did he bank on meeting sexy hitchhiker Sarah, nor being chased for hundreds of miles by a deformed killer psycho in a monster truck.
And that's all you really need to know about the plot, which is handy as that's about all the plot you're going to get. But then again, who needs one? This film's not about convoluted story lines and clever plot twists (there is a twist, but it doesn't railroad the whole movie like some do), it's about clever dialogue and gags - lots of them. Oh, and gore, there's plenty of that too, especially near the end.
For a start with, Monster Man is essentially just a road movie, and road movies by definition are restricted to a relatively simple formula. You have the car (and the conversations held therein) and the road where all the action takes place, plus places alongside the road where your film’s protagonists stop to refuel, buy supplies and go to the toilet (more on that later). This appears pretty limiting, but not if you play to your own strengths. For the car scenes you need great dialogue, for the road scenes you need great action, and for the set pieces truck stops you need great ideas. That’s what this film has in spades.
Inevitable comparisons to Kevin Smith not withstanding (think Clerks meets Duel with a side order of Jeepers Creepers), writer/director Michael Davis does a good job at keeping us interested in what is for major stretches just mindless banter between Adam and Harley (at least until Sarah turns up). The destination (all road movies need one) is the wedding of the long standing object of Adam’s desire – Betty Ann – and the whole back story and character set up is leisurely told to us in the front seat of Adam’s crappy red Griswold family roadster as the film progresses. But just when you think Monster Man is going to be all chatter-chatter, a crazy monster truck that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Mad Max film appears out of nowhere and starts ramming them up the ass. Cue screams, tension and some clever jump-cutting akin to the tricks James Cameron used back in Terminator as the camera whips from car to car, from face to face, to the panning stationery shot at the side of the road of both cars passing and back to the car again. It’s great stuff.
But as much as the dialogue and the car chases are engaging, it’s the set pieces that really make Monster Man stand out, and they too are directed with enough confidence to make you think we might hear from this Michael Davis fella again soon. The Gas Station scene quite early on is a brilliant example of Davis using his favourite jump cuts to portray Adam’s disgust at the shit all over the toilet floor, while flexing his transition shot muscles by cutting to and from Harley pissing in… Well, I don’t want to spoil one of the best gags in the movie for you, suffice to say this movie pulls no punches in terms of taste, none at all, and it’s much better for it.
Eric Jungman does a really good job of portraying the nervousness of the Velcro-enhanced Adam and Justin Urich’s Harley is as obnoxious as I’m sure any actor could possibly play him, but both these guys are helped along by a neat script filled with joke after joke and knowing nods to many other genre pictures. Aimee Brook’s Sarah is, sadly, just the eye candy of the movie, but she does her best and at least she gets some great mileage out of some great Yoda dialogue while making out with Adam (“Size matters not – judge me by my size do you?”). Just about the only other characters are Fuck Face (what a great name for a baddie), a sheriff (“You wanna play hide the soap, boy?”) and a local from the amputee village who loves to poke his stumpy arm at people. He’s one of the best characters in the film actually and I would have loved to have seen more of him, but I guess there’s only so much you can get from a character that only says (“You are next!”) over and over (think the “Are you looking at my eye!?” guy from Cannibal – The Musical, if you’ve seen that).
Like I mentioned earlier, Monster Man does have it’s fair share of gory bits. It’s not the blood splashing up the wall kind though, more the after-the-fact icky stuff you get when you stumble into decapitated corpses or fondle road-kill (you have to watch the film) – just gross and sick. I particularly loved the car chase with the body rolling around the backseat, I hadn’t laughed so hard in ages.
At the end of the day, if you like full-on guts and gore, mixed in with full-on belly laughs, I can’t recommend this enough. Call your mates, get the beers in and let Monster Man take you for a ride. It’s well worth it.
Versions US DVD and there's a good Dutch disc often going cheap on ebay.
4th Oct 04 With its fine blend of dark humour and shock horror, you will barely be able to avert your gaze from the screen; from the opening sequence on the desolate moors, to the thrilling finale in Piccadilly Circus.