When elder vampire Erasmus (Price) literally gets a midnight snack from horror writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes (Carradine), he invites him back to a local hot spot where all the guys are ghastly and the girls are ghoulish! There, three spine-tingling tales unwind to the beat of rockin’ tunes from an array of pop performers.
The star-studded cast also includes Donald Pleasence (HALLOWEEN), Britt Ekland, Stuart Whitman, Richard Johnson, Simon Ward, Barbara Kellerman and Patrick Magee, and features music by UB40 and The Pretty Things. Directed by Roy Ward Baker (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, SCARS OF DRACULA) and based on stories by author R. Chetwynd-Hayes (FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE), THE MONSTER CLUB is an enduring cult classic for fear fans of all ages.
The Monster Club 6.75
eyelights: Vincent Price. its kitschy vibe. its self-awareness. its conceit.
eyesores: its lack of spark. its half-hearted direction. its unbelievably bad creature masks.
A man is wandering cobblestoned streets, and pauses to look at the display of a bookstore window. Pleased, he walks off. But, suddenly, he is attacked by a tall, aged man, who quickly bites into him and drinks from his jugular.
When he gets back up, the assailant apologizes for the scare and promises him that the man will be fine, that he will not be turned into a vampire. In fact, he gushes a little at our protagonist, who it turns out is a famed horror writer.
In a gesture of contrition, the vampire takes our author to The Monster Club, where he is promised that he’ll meet such creatures and hear such tales that he’ll be inspired anew. Intrigued, the author begins to take mental notes.
It’ll be an evening he’ll never forget.
‘The Monster Club’ is a 1981 anthology motion picture based on R. Chetwynd-Hayes’ works. It stars Vincent Price as Erasmus, the vampire, and John Carradine as a fictionalized version of R. Chetwynd-Hayes himself.
It consists of three stories recounted by various individuals, all revolving around an unusual genealogical tree of breeds and crossbreed such as Vampire, Ghoul, Vamgoo (Vampire + Ghoul), Werevamp (Werewolf + Vampire), …etc.
It’s all very silly, tongue-in-cheek stuff.
1. A couple of hard-up grifters are looking for an easy victim to fleece. She gets a gig working at a large mansion for a pale, creepy looking man (who is, in fact, a hybrid creature known as a Shadmock) and wins his trust enough that he lets on where the safe is. His guard down, infatuated by his hired hand, he proposes to her and throws an engagement party. But, during that party, she’ll betray his trust – to her detriment.
2. This story is shared with the clubgoers by a film producer who shows them a short film he made based on his childhood experiences. A young, timid boy is unaware that his father is a vampire and finds out when a group of vampire hunters break into their home to slaughter the creature. But the father turns the tables on his assailants, biting their leader as he dies – or appears to. Now the group’s leader is chased by his team.
3. A movie director is location scouting and goes to Loughville. In the mist he finds a seemingly deserted inn. When he finally finds the innkeeper, he’s beckoned to stay the night. But he discovers that the area is populated by ghouls and barely escapes to a room upstairs. Lucky for him, the chambermaid, a half human-half ghoul, decides to help him. He gets away, with her help and a crucifix – only to be recaptured unexpectedly.
All of them have very classic plots and are fairly predictable, but they’re all performed and put together relatively well. And they have their own little twists and flavours to indicate the filmmakers and actors weren’t dead serious.
In fact, most of the scares are parlour tricks, things popping out of nowhere, sudden blasts of music, that sort of thing. But it might be enough to spook a younger crowd, which may have been its target audience in the first place.
What really makes the picture fun is that the segments are interspersed by concert footage, each featuring an artist (ex: B.A. Robertson, Night, The Pretty Things) performing a song in the club before a group of dancing monsters.
There’s even a strip show, in which the dancer pulls her skin off to reveal her skeleton (it’s all animated, of course).
Unfortunately, the club’s patrons are a pathetic array of crap costumes and cheap masks. It looks like they called in a bunch of extras, threw rubber masks on them and just had them hanging around – there’s no attempt at realism.
Of course, it was probably intentional: ‘The Monster Club’ and its remarkable cast (Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasance, Britt Ekland, et al.) clearly wants to have fun with the horror genre and its many conventions.
It’s just too bad that its tales aren’t fresh enough and that the humour isn’t incisive enough. The format is excellent, and it does entertain to some degree, but it sure could have been a lot more fun, funnier, wackier and scarier.
Frankly, I’d love to see a remake or sequel.
Date of viewing: June 19, 2017