Writer and director Chris von Hoffmann’s previous movie was the hit-or-miss exploitation flick, Drifter. Genre fans who appreciate spirited mayhem may want to check it out on Netflix. On Friday November 2, von Hoffman released his follow-up effort, Monster Party, on several VOD-streaming platforms. No, it’s not the older Rankin/Bass Mad Monster Party with Boris Karloff. But this politically self-aware indie horror film is still very much worth checking out.
Iris, Casper, and Dodge are in their early 20’s and struggling to get by. Iris is two months pregnant with Dodge’s baby. Meanwhile Casper’s dad owes several thousand dollars to a violent bookie. To make ends meet, the three friends pull off home burglaries for small-time gains. But with his dad in deep, Casper convinces Iris to let them hit a swanky private party in a Malibu mansion. Iris is initially reluctant as its part of her safe catering gig before relenting. But the tables are quickly turned on the young criminals. Their hosts are addicts with an uncontrollable lust for killing. Getting into the mansion was no problem. But getting out alive will be an entirely different matter.
Monster Party Delivers Some Skewering Social Commentary
Monster Party liberally borrows its premise from Fede Alvarez’s 2016 Don’t Breathe. All similarities between the two movies, however, end there. Following the 2008 global economic recession, several genre films have turned to economic inequality and class division as a source of horror. Class warfare has always boiled beneath the surface of The Purge franchise. Would You Rather, Mayhem, and the recent Us and Them all revolve around the upper echelon preying on the oppressed. von Hoffmann immediately sets Monster Party apart from Don’t Breath by adopting this class warfare focus.
Like Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, Monster Party uses the ‘serial killer’ as a clever metaphor for the predatory greed of ‘America’s 1%’.
For its first half, Monster Party delivers a skewering commentary on social inequality and class division. Does it make sense that a group of serial killers would have an addictions support group? No, but it doesn’t need to make sense. Like Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, Monster Party uses the ‘serial killer’ as a clever metaphor for the predatory greed of ‘America’s 1%’. Robin Tunney’s dinner speech about finding a homeless man asleep and ‘wanting to end his misery’ offers chilling insight into an entitled mindset. Some of the younger killers look intentionally patterned after the ‘dude bro’ stereotype characteristic of privilege. When these characters corner and harass a young black man, it’s an uncomfortable reminder of American race relations. Unfortunately, von Hoffmann loses his grip on the commentary once the blood starts flowing. But for an hour or so, Monster Party works quite well as political allegory.
Monster Party is a Bloody Fun
If Monster Party is an imperfect allegorical horror film, it makes up for it with the traditional horror elements. As compared to the uneven Drifter, von Hoffmann keeps Monster Party pretty focused. There are several scenes dripping with tension. These white-knuckle moments are accompanied by a few fun jump scares and a couple of genuine shocks. On more than one occasion, von Hoffmann subverts expectations and pulls the rug out from under your feet. Characters don’t die in the expected order and not everyone you think will survive makes it to the end. The first death scene is as brutal as it is unexpected.
Monster Party rivals some of 2018’s more wild horror films with its blood-spurting and intestine-ripping violence.
These subversive twists are punctuated with the kind of over-the-top violence von Hoffmann perfected in Drifter. Monster Party rivals some of 2018’s more wild horror films with its blood-spurting and intestine-ripping violence. Of course, von Hoffmann films all of this violence with distinctive style and panache. Yes, a few scenes miss their mark. In particular, one character’s eventual appearance is strongly built up, only to be abruptly discarded. In addition, von Hoffmann gives in to the temptation of tacking on one too many additional ‘endings’. But these are pretty minor quibbles with what’s a pretty a raw, streamlined movie.
A Game Cast Having Fun with the Premise
Monster Party is headlined by a pretty impressive cast for an independent horror film. Not surprisingly then, the performances are universally strong. Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck) and genre favourite Robin Tunney (The Craft) anchor everything with their wonderfully restrained portrayals. Veteran character actor Lance Reddick demonstrates once again why he is criminally underrated. Our young trio of protagonists – Sam Strike, Virginia Gardner, and Brandon Micheal Hall – show promise of bigger things. Yet if there’s a standout, it’s the relatively unknown Kian Lawley who balances menace with a smarmy smirk in equal measures.
Monster Party is a Surprisingly Fun Late Horror Entry to 2018
As we head into the final two months of 2018, Monster Party marks a fun late addition to the genre. To some extent, it treads familiar ground but, as compared to those movies, does a much better job of executing its premise. Writer and director Chris von Hoffmann continues to show promise as an up-and-coming filmmaker.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B+