TITLE: The Monster Club
YEAR RELEASED: 1981
DIRECTOR: Roy Ward Baker
CAST: Vincent Price, Donald Pleasence and John Carradine
PLOT: A horror author plays ‘snack’ to a vampire and as thanks is invited to attend The Monster Club to meet and hear about members of the monster ‘family tree’.
FUN FACT: Carradine and Price were actually second-choice actors and it opened in theatres on Price’s 70th birthday.
REVIEW BY JULIE MORRISROE
The Monster Club is not a film that many think of as being a horror masterpiece, but please don’t dismiss its slightly cheesy nature for lack of talent in the writing or acting arenas.
Vincent Price and John Carradine do a marvellous job portraying a thirsty, aging vampire who unwittingly snacks on his favourite horror author, re-paying the kindness with a visit to the local hangout for all the creatures that go bump in the night.
He proceeds to work through the Monster Family Tree, telling tales of the disturbing members that branch from its couplings. And they are wonderfully written pieces of work too, delving into simple, not overly gory stories designed to slightly disturb and slightly knock off kilter your sense of security, not like today’s ‘in your face’ blood and gore. Your 10-year-old kids could watch these and not be scarred for life, but they’ll enjoy the little thrill of experiencing something un-nerving and I bet they end up singing all the songs too!
They play it all very ‘tongue in cheek’ which works well with the dark humour that is scattered throughout the film, and the oh so very obvious lack of budget!
I watched this film as quite a young child and loved it as much as it un-nerved me! I will always remember ‘the whistling one’ being the main culprit of the shudders (The Shadmock tale) but in the same breath some of my favourite parts of the entire film made me laugh out loud with glee! Mainly these revolve around the house/guest bands playing their unique styled monster music..in fact, I am sat writing this review as I listen to the sound track and am grinning like a fool!
The makeup effects utilised in The Monster Club are by no means close to today’s realistic examples, many of the club members are wearing nothing more than rubber Halloween masks…but this too just adds character and a nostalgic feel to the whole film.
In terms of the individual stories Vincent Price regales to John Carradine, it a rather varied mix.
The Shadmock tale that probably sticks in my adult mind the most, is quite a unique one. You almost end up feeling pity for the poor lonely Shadmock who only wants companionship, but ends up being taken advantage of and wreaking his ‘whistled’ revenge, thus returning to his solitary life.
The Vampire family of the next story live a ‘normal’ life – a regular working family, kids go to school, daddy works, but just happens to be a vampire! Donald Pleasence is the hunter tracking them down. I love the kind of humour that is sprinkled throughout the storyline for the Vampire tale, but many seem to disagree with me – Daddy vampire pulling the deadly stake out from his chest and triumphantly proclaiming his dedication to ‘Stake proof vests filled with ketchup’ makes me chuckle every time I watch!
The final tale is more serious than the previous two, telling the story of a film director scouting for a location (featuring the best set pieces of the whole film) and stumbling into a town of Humghouls (human/ghoul hybrids). It is darker, with an absence of the humour found elsewhere and is probably the one part of the entire film that harkens back to real Hammer Horror styled storylines and twisted end, even though it is a bit obvious to the viewers.
All in all, this is, and always will be a cult classic of the 80’s horror genre … the stripper scene right at the end is worth its weight in gold!
JULIE MORRISROE is the founding partner of Cosmic Workshop where she designs and creates leather armour and props for film, LARP, Re-enactment and Museums. She and hubby Pod also run Letters of Marque creating historical reproductions from the golden age of piracy.