Book Of Monsters


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Book Of Monsters
"Craine puts a lot of passion into her performance, making for a gutsy lead we can keep rooting for even when other aspects of the film are weak."

A common complaint about mainstream films in this day and age is that they feel as if they've been designed by committee. Is it actually possible to make a film that way, and if so, what would happen if it were done on a low budget by an independent production team? When The Creature Below director Stewart Sparke set out to make a horror film about a teenage girl's birthday party, he raised funds by offering supporters the chance to vote on aspects of the story: what would the monsters be? How would the characters die? What weapon will be used when all seems lost? The result is an intriguing insight into the horror fan psyche. It's a tangled mess but it's also surprisingly good fun.

We first meet heroine Sophie when she's just a small child having a bedtime story read to her by her mother, and we see the traumatic incident that redefines her life. Now, played by Lyndsey Craine, she's on the brink of turning 18 and her dad has left her alone for the night to enjoy a party with her friends. Those friends have gone somewhat overboard and invited practically everyone they know, so the first nightmare our heroine has to face is the thought of what her dad will say when he sees the destruction. Then there's the fact that the attendees include mean girls who don't intend to be nice to her just because of the occasion, and try to humiliate her with an entirely inappropriate gift. Things start to look up a bit when the girl she likes shyly returns her affections, but then, before you know it, a sacrificial ritual in her bedroom brings vicious monsters out of the ether to tear through party guests as if there were no tomorrow. And maybe there won't be.

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Sparke bites off a bit more than he can chew with the monster rampage. It's clear that a lot of fun has been had with costume design and gore but what we see is perhaps a bit too realistic in other ways, in that there's a lot of incoherent screaming and thrashing about and it's difficult to tell what's going on. When the pace slows again we find isolated groups of survivors boldly trying to fend off their foes with the items you'd expect to find in the average home. Sophie, however, has access to something else. She's about to discover that her mother had a secret - one that will take her life in a wholly new direction.

Like most films of its ilk, this one gets much better once it has whittled down its characters so it can pay more attention to individuals. Craine puts a lot of passion into her performance, making for a gutsy lead we can keep rooting for even when other aspects of the film are weak. The later action scenes are ambitious with Sparke using careful camerawork to give the impression there's a lot more going on than is really the case. Every now and then the illusion falls through and then your ability to stay with the film, as a viewer, will depend on the extent to which you've got into the spirit of it.

Needless to say, there's no attempt to play it straight. This is a cheerfully derivative genre romp. Viewers looking for innovation or narrative sophistication will be disappointed. What we do get is an energetic female-focused story that has enough heart to spare some of it for decorating the living room walls. It's an all-out monster-mashing schlockfest and sometimes that's exactly what one needs.

Reviewed on: 16 Mar 2019
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Six kickass women must fight off a horde of terrifying monsters at an 18th birthday party.

Director: Stewart Sparke

Writer: Paul Butler

Starring: Lyndsey Craine, Michaela Longden, Lizzie Stanton, Anna Dawson, Rose Muirhead, Steph Mossman

Year: 2018

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: UK


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