I Am Monsters!


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Nicholas Vince in I Am Monsters!
"Vince has a good supply of stories, from the industry and from other areas of life. Together they paint a very personal portrait of an era." | Photo: courtesy of Frightfest

Translating a stage show into a film is a tricky endeavour. There’s a good bit of justification for it in this case – Nicholas Vince’s work has strong niche appeal and far more people will be able to access it in recorded form than could ever hope to attend in person – but it takes effort to keep it interesting. Vince, however, has some experience with this kind of thing, and doing it himself means that he is able to build up the camera movements to complement his tried and tested approach to moving around onstage. This is combined with clips of video to create something which, though not exactly dynamic, offers enough visual interest to keep film fans engaged whilst he draws them in with his words.

Vince is an actor who has enjoyed a long and eclectic career but is best known to fans as a performer of monsters, most notable among them the Chatterer from iconic Eighties horror film Hellraiser. This, one suspects, will have been the main draw for fans going to see this film at Frightfest 2023, and a good bit of time is spent discussing the Clive Barker work and its sequel, but there’s more going on here. Vince is interested in exploring his lifelong attraction to monsters, his relationship to the monsters he has played and his own experience of being characterised as a monster because he grew up as a gay man in an intensely homophobic society.

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Acting is, of course, a profession which has always provided refuge and understanding for sexual and gender minorities – though Vince describes himself as ‘rubbish at being gay’ and doesn’t seem to have achieved the hedonistic lifestyle which the tabloids then insisted was rife. He did find it a safe environment in which to make friends and he talks about modelling for the young Clive Barker (we get a chance to see some of the results), an unexpected step in light of a childhood spent worrying about his appearance after being talked into drastic surgery to remedy an underbite. This latter experience is ironic in light of the role he would go on to play swathed in so much prosthetic material that he could barely hear or see and was known on set simply as ‘poor bastard’.

Vince has a good supply of stories, from the industry and from other areas of life. Together they paint a very personal portrait of an era – often the most effective way to enable younger generations to understand the past. He has the self-awareness necessary to go beyond merely looking for sympathy and, by exploring his own failings, probe some of the more difficult areas of human experience. In examining cinematic culture, he reveals that he sees its traditional monsters as, more often than not, victims themselves. Yet there is that pleasure which many actors (and writers) speak of, of having lived not just one life but many, and seen the world from different perspectives. There is a sense, toward the end of the film, or triumphant integration.

The average cinemagoer will probably not want to spend 72 minutes watching somebody wander round a stage and talk, but anyone with an interest in the craft of cinema, especially horror, will find Vince’s perspective intriguing. Genre outsiders will be surprised – horror fans will not – by his general amiability, and he’s an easy person to listen to. The simple terms in which he frames his experiences make this very accessible, so you won’t need to be a film scholar to understand it. Monster fans will relate, and for young LGBTQ+ people, it’s a good lesson in taking ownership of what other people use to try to hurt you, and finding your power.

Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2023
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I Am Monsters! packshot
A personal story about growing up with horror films and coping as a gay man under Thatcherism.

Director: Nicholas Vince

Writer: Nicholas Vince, Clive Barker

Starring: Nicholas Vince, Marie Britton, Lyndsey Craine

Year: 2023

Runtime: 71 minutes

Country: UK


Frightfest 2023

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