Following ever-so-sincerely in the footsteps of Peter Jackson, Jon Knautz’s debut feature is a delightful D-grade romp into the world of monsters, clunky dialogue and chunky vomit.
Surprisingly, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer looks fantastic. It is a really, really well made film. I was expecting a shoddy-looking, low budget flick, but it’s actually pretty glossy. Nothing looks real, but that’s not the point, is it? The camera moves are dramatic, varied and purposely stereotypical, and the sets and costumes are great. One of the film’s crowning achievements would have to be the monsters themselves. Low-budget indie flicks like Undead have shown us how easy it is to use a computer these days, but Jack Brooks surprises us all by using physical creations. A mixture of make-up effects and puppetry/animatronics is utilised to create a truly fantastic menagerie.
It all takes me back to the good ol’ days of filmmaking. After the disappointment of computer-enhanced Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which didn’t hold up to Spielberg’s promise of doin’ it old school, it’s thrilling to see some actual physical effects. The monsters are awesome. I really hope that this might be a sign of things to come, that we’re going to see a bit of a special effects renaissance. (It would certainly fit well with the current fixation on handheld, gritty cinematography).
Other than that, the film is found to be lacking. The problem with attempting to make a top notch D-grade movie is that at the end of the process you end up with a D-grade movie. Hence, the pacing is awful, and there are more than a few drawn out, unnecessarily long scenes, and a couple of absolute duds. The majority of the film is a flashback – we start off seeing our hero in all his glory, then get whisked back to the early years when he first stares into the eyes of the horrid, blood-lusting critters that he can’t seem to avoid. The acting is decent, but none of the central characters memorable. The film is actually stolen by one David Fox as old Howard, who turns a fairly expository role into hands-down one of the funniest performances of the year. The guy is awesome.
Robert Englund has a fairly significant role, and isn’t afraid to go all the way in one of the film’s silliest parts as Jack’s teacher. Unfortunately none of its strengths are enough to save this film from being more than a little dull. There is a lot of talent here, it should be put to better use. I guess it’s aimed at fans of The Evil Dead and others of its kind, but it won’t stand the test of time in quite the same way.Rating: