FANTASIA: JACK BROOKS MONSTER SLAYER Review

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor

Being a plumber just got a whole lot more violent. Jack Brooks has got an anger problem, and why not? His girlfriend's a nag, he's stuck taking night classes, his van's barely running, and there's also the little matter of witnessing his entire family killed and eaten by some sort of troll monster when he was just a boy. Jack's got issues, issues that erupt in burst of violence and rage. Luckily for him he's about to find an appropriate target ...

The creature feature has fallen on hard times lately, the financial failure of Slither making many leery of touching the genre but the world of foam latex monsters and buckets of blood is an enduring cult favorite for a simple reason: when done well it's an awful lot of fun. And Canadian production Jack Brooks Monster Slayer does it well. A low budget, splattery comedy horror the film stars co-writer and co-producer Trevor Matthews as the titular Jack, a troubled young man whose life has been largely derailed by his anger issues when he finds himself in the middle of a full on creature attack, forced to defend himself and his night school classmates from a bloody end while dealing with his own issues in the process. The cause of the monster invasion? A cursed heart swallowed by Jack's science teacher, Professor Crowley, played brilliantly by Robert Englund of Nightmare on Elm Street fame, that slowly transforms the genial if bumbling scientist into a massive, tentacled, and very hungry demon beast.

Jack Brooks works well on a number of levels - the creature effects are pleasingly squishy, the action quotient is high, and the badly tempered Brooks is an interesting spin on the anti hero - but what really sells the film are the characters. Matthews is solid enough as Brooks but there are a trio of genuine scene stealers scattered throughout the cast. James A Woods (no, not that James Woods) is hysterical as the stoner geek John, constantly spouting relationship advice revolving around hashish. Veteran Canadian stage actor David Fox - who I actually just saw in a live production and is a veteran of the renowned Stratford Festival - plays absent minded hardware store clerk Howard flawlessly. But, most of all, the film is stolen by Freddy himself, Robert Englund, who turns in one of his most memorable performances in years as the bumbling - and possessed - Professor Crowley. Englund has been given a role here that demands an enormous amount of physical comedy and he's obviously loving every minute of it, playing the role to the hilt and creating a totally unique character in the process.

While its neither the bloodiest nor the most polished creature film ever made Jack Brooks is a definite crowd pleaser, one that played to great success at Slamdance and accomplished the near impossible task of getting a packed industry screening here in Berlin - as tough an audience as there is - laughing aloud and cheering for the characters. Anyone who has ever attended a market screening will tell you that's about the largest compliment a film can receive.

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