Throwback movies prove that some films exist just for shits, giggles and entertainment without an agenda, completely unlike most of what the Academy nominated this year. After all, what can be better than a low-budget film featuring attractive women involved in a vicious fight between a ludicrous stop-motion tentacled monster? The answer: not The Artist.*
Available today on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures, El Monstro del Mar! is a quaint tale from Down Under about Beretta (Nelli Scarlet), Blondie (Karli Madden) and Snowball (Kate Watts), three women who are as much empowered as they are tattooed, who seek a shack with a waterfront view after ruthlessly killing two locals in their path. After arriving at the shack, Blondie and Snowball take the opportunity to play in the water before being verbally scolded by Joseph (Norman Yemm) for being there. As things escalate between the vixens and the old man, his granddaughter Hannah (Kyrie Capri) breaks it up and catches the girls’ collective eye.
After being invited over that night, Hannah tells the girls of her parents’ death in the water and how her grandfather forbids her from going near it. Then Hannah gets wasted and a mysterious, tentacled being snatches Snowball from the dock along with a few other fishing folk nearby. The rest of the short runtime is Beretta and Blondie learning about the being’s history and declaring war on it. Along the way are enough grisly deaths and over-the-top effects that truly make this worthy of a watch just to see how crazy it can get.
Most of the indie movies we feature here tend to be low-budget to the point of sticking out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (case in point, Dawning) but the lack of funds can limit what appears on screen and what is implied. Either writer/director/et al Stuart Simpson had a much larger budget or can manage gross visual effects and some laughable, but still commendable, monster shots on a dime. I’m thinking its a ‘little bit of column A, little bit of column B’ answer. Regardless of how its actual cost, El Monstro is a sharp looking film with little hints of low-budgetness here and there which give it more character.
Beginning with an impressive opening in black and white, the color switches gears into full color as blood is shed. While I appreciate being able to see gratuitous blood in its natural state, this film seems like it was born to be a full B&W affair but that was partially abandoned, likely to increase its commercial appeal. Most every scene after the opening was shot and lit in a way that made the actors stand out prominently against dark or shadowed background. It’s rare to see a modern film embrace the film format of old (The Artist notwithstanding) so I would rather have seen a full commitment if that was so intended. I can’t knock the film too much for this though since the choice of lighting and composition was so expertly done.
Not much falls flat in this one, nor does it really have time to with a brief running time. Most of the actors turn in largely good performances with the exceptions being the bit characters who die suddenly so that doesn’t matter much. Sure, the monster effects are cheesy but in the film’s defense, that was what it was going for with an old-school approach that makes a seasoned horror fan appreciate the finale with blood-drenched heroines who are sliding around on the floor covered with goo. If nothing else, the finale is worth the price of admission all by itself with the rest of the film simply an added bonus.
*I haven’t seen The Artist but I doubt I‘d appreciate it more than El Monstero