Sophie (Lyndsey Craine) is about to turn 18 so she decides to throw a party in her dad’s house with her best friends. Many uninvited people join the party: a male stripper, some douchy classmates and a strange woman, who finds out the titular Book of Monsters. Flesh-eating creatures from hell are unleashed and the party guests must find a way to send them back to where they came from, all the while trying not to be devoured.
Written by Paul Butler and directed by Stewart Sparke, Book of Monsters is a low-budget British horror-comedy that wastes no time: the opening scene, which revolves around Sophie’s mom and how she disappeared long ago, showcases subtle and effective humour in combination with a genuine dreadful and scary atmosphere.
Horror-comedies are always hard to review or recommend for me: sometimes, what I consider to be funny might not make others laugh and vice versa. Also, this sub-genre often struggles to balance horrific elements with amusing bits. Book of Monsters, however, manages to achieve that.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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The horror in the movie is achieved in a formulaic but effective manner (jump-scares and sound design are the techniques used here), whereas the comedy often relies on subtle British humour, which I personally find very entertaining. The jokes in Book of Monsters aren’t laugh-out-loud hilarious, but they work in the context of horrific and gory scenes. This film succeeds in mixing the two genres by not stopping the action or the horror to crack up a joke; instead, Book of Monsters utilises its comedy within the scary moments, making for a very interesting contrast. The filmmakers also tried to rely on the editing to craft amusing scenes (a la Edgar Wright) but, in that regard, they didn’t always pull it off.
This balance of horror and comedy is also backed up by great pacing. Book of Monsters is extremely fast-paced and never dull, something relevant or entertaining always happens on screen, keeping the tone both light-hearted and intense throughout. This is a movie that doesn’t shy away from gore (there’s plenty of it, with loads of characters ready to be gruesomely killed) but, due to the reaction shots of the other characters, manages to turn something potentially disturbing into a lot of unadulterated fun.
However, the glue that holds the movie together is Lyndsey Craine: they perfectly cast her as Sophie, a super cute and naïve girl who’s also clever and brave when it’s needed. Craine perfectly portraits the character and gives it believability, whilst the filmmakers develop her personality throughout the runtime. Many indie directors ignore character development, making their movies somewhat forgettable; on the contrary, Book of Monsters heavily relies on Sophie growing and evolving as a person, as the story unfolds.
Book of Monsters perfectly nails the tone it was going for: it achieves every key aspect it was set out to accomplish. Nonetheless, it’s a very flawed movie due to budget restraints and lack of experience.
Most of the creatures feature very cool makeup and effects but, due to restraints, they had to be filmed through shaky-cam which makes impossible to fully appreciate them. This is an issue that becomes particularly poignant during the bloody action scenes, where the viewer can’t fully understand and enjoy what’s going on.
Yet, aside from Sophie and her best friend Mona, most of the characters are either annoying or make such dumb decision to carry the story along. Speaking of the plot, it’s completely unclear why or how the Book of Monsters came back into Sophie’s life: at one point, it’s just there as a lazy convenience to set the story in motion.
The Misfits-like soundtrack, which I liked, is sometimes misplaced and makes certain sequences confusing as to how the viewer should feel: is the movie implying we should get scared now or does it want us to laugh at what’s shown? Finally, the sound-design is often amateurish, with a couple of moments where the characters just stare at each other with dull facial expression and no sound or music to be found in the background.
Overall, Book of Monsters is a short and sweet horror comedy that doesn’t outstay its welcome: it’s entertaining and creepy, gory and hilarious. As a very low-budget film, it suffers from a few technical issues and bits of inconsistent writing. If you’re looking for a mindless, funny/spooky horror movie to spend 80 minutes with, you can’t go wrong with Book of Monsters.
Book of Monsters 7/10
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