GORE IN THE STORE
MONSTER MAN ****
Directed by Michael Davis.
Starring Eric Jungmann, Justin Urich, Aimee Brooks, Michael Bailey Smith, Tim Sitarz.
Horror/Comedy, 95 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray via 101 Films on 28th February 2022
MONSTER MAN may sound like the title of a 1950s sci-fi/horror caper but is in fact a gory slasher comedy from 2003 that seemingly gets overlooked in favour of its torture porn contemporaries when it comes to compiling those oh-so-fun ‘Best Horror Movies of the 2000s’ lists that clog up the clickbait sections of websites.
Which is a tad unfair because MONSTER MAN, despite not boasting any huge stars, big-name genre filmmakers behind the camera or actually doing anything you haven’t seen in any ‘road-trip across the backwoods of America’ movie you care to mention, is actually a lot of fun and boasts some excellent practical gore effects that have that look of not being too outlandish but also not as real as they would become over the next couple of years, once SAW ushered in the new wave of torture movies. Then again, if the sight of a man with his stomach and chest cavity removed but is somehow still able to get up and walk around doesn’t seem too outlandish to you then you may need to ask yourself some serious questions.
With a first act reminiscent of the first act of JEEPERS CREEPERS or any decent WRONG TURN movie – i.e. the first two – MONSTER MAN sees two mismatched buddies travelling across the back roads of America. Uptight wimp Adam (Eric Jungmann) is desperate to halt the wedding of the woman he loves and has decided to drive across country to tell her how he feels, and he is joined by his buddy Harley (Justin Urich), a practical joker and generally annoying loudmouth who gets the pair into trouble at a hillbilly diner with his snarky comments.
Back on the road the pair fall foul of a giant monster truck who seems intent on running their car off the road. Turns out the truck is being driven by a bizarrely disfigured mutant who seems to be on some sort of killing spree, committing murders in the name of Satan, and once our two hapless leads pick up hitchhiker Sarah (Aimee Brooks) Adam seems to forget all about his original love as the trio fight for their lives against the horribly scarred Monster Man (Michael Bailey Smith).
So yes, MONSTER MAN is basically a typical backwoods slasher meets DUEL with a ton of frat-boy humour thrown in for good measure, and as such it shouldn’t be taken too seriously, if at all. The jokes are mostly painful and the performances (deliberately) annoying in a post-AMERICAN PIE/JACKASS way but at the heart of it all is a horror movie, and when MONSTER MAN cranks up the gore it does so with admirable abandon. The plot, whilst not offering up anything new, does twist and turn enough that it doesn’t always go where you expect it to at any given moment, which means that things never get dull or tedious, and once the final act is in full flow you could almost be forgiven for thinking this was spoofing THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake (despite this being made three years before that movie, but you’ll see the similarities); you even get Michael Bailey Smith – who was also in that movie – going mental with a variety of sharp implements in a very similar way. And if you want to see the greatest final shot in any slasher movie ever then MONSTER MAN gives it to you in the most hilariously absurd fashion.
Coming backed with an audio commentary from writer/director Michael Davis with actors Eric Jungmann and Justin Urich, a gag reel, trailer and Michael Davis’s original animated MONSTER MAN short, MONSTER MAN is a highly entertaining horror comedy that has a few laughs – as long as your tolerance for whiny, gross-out humour is suitably high – and a lot of trashy and bloody violence. No more, no less – job done.