El Monstro del Mar! (2010)
By: Julian on December 3, 2011  | 
Monster Pictures | All Regions, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 76 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Stuart Simpson
Starring: Nelli Scarlet, Kyrie Capri, Karli Madden, Kate Watts, Norman Yemm, Scott Brennan
Screenplay: Stuart Simpson
Country: Australia
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Think of Russ Meyer crossed with Roger Corman and you'll know what Stuart Simpson was driving at with El Monstro del Mar, his second feature after a promising but flawed debut, The Demonsamongus. Simpson sheds a lot of the airs and pretensions that bogged down Demonsamongus to give us a thoroughly delightful genre mash-up – as the tagline gleefully proclaims, this is a film that pits killer vixens against the creature from the deep!

Our anti-heroines are Beretta (Nellie Scarlet), Snowball (Kate Watts) and Blondie (Karlie Madden), and we're introduced to the busty, tattoo-strewn trio as they bail up a pair of blokes on a country highway and cut their throats for their car. The three are escaping a robbery, the events of which we are not privy, although a couple of flashbacks depict Beretta wielding a chainsaw and Snowball and Blondie hovering over the bloodied corpses of several men in a room covered in banknotes. In any case, and if we haven't already gathered after the cold butchery of the two fellas in the black-and-white prologue, these are not nice people.

The three, planning to lie low, drive to a vacant shack by the beach. Their only neighbours are Hannah (Kyrie Capri), a 17-year-old schoolgirl, and Hannah's cantankerous wheelchair-bound grandfather (Norman Yemm). Although Hannah's grandfather warns against entering the water, the trio do so with hearty abandon, allowing Simpson to regale his film with the obligatory, Meyeresque shots of bikini-clad tough chicks.

Beretta, Snowball and Blondie befriend Hannah, which means getting her drunk while they go for midnight dips and snort cocaine. Meanwhile, a fishing trip a little way up the shore goes horribly awry in a spray of limbs and viscera. There is good reason for the old man's warnings against entering the water, and the girls are about to find that out soon.

Simpson, taking on the roles of writer, director, editor and cinematographer, plays around a bit with some visual techniques, as he did in The Demonsamongus, although his work here is far more nuanced, and Monstro is all the better for Simpson's restraint. The director has certainly matured as a visual stylist, and while Demons was filmed through a distractingly hyper-stylised lens, Simpson is a bit more subtle with Monstro: the black-and-white prologue, which explodes into colour as blood spurts, is a good example of this.

Alas, Simpson's visual style doesn't always work. The movie can often feel choppy as one scene just jumping to another without any smoothness or attempt at segue, and the cinematography itself (as distinct from the film's visual stylisations) is fairly bland. One wonders whether the film would have benefited from an extra pair of hands on the tiller, although multi-tasking obviously means one or more less sets of wages to pay. More than that, though, it would be churlish to fault Simpson too harshly for some isolated deficiencies in what must have been a helluva workload.

The uneven editing and strained cinematography are two issues I've got with Monstro. The average performances are another. But these weaknesses only occasionally distract from what is otherwise a very strong exploitation film. Nick Kocsis' effects work is a highlight, as it was in Demonsamongus and Simpson's marvellously insane shorts. Kocsis and Simpson were wise in their depiction of el monstro – they knew their financial limitations and sought not to show a cheap-looking creature in its entirety, but parts of the creature that they knew they could do well. And it works. We rarely see the entire beast, but those moments that we do are the most ineffective. For a film on such a tight budget, I was very pleasantly surprised by how the creature was handled – the best of any recent low-budget exploitationer you care to name, and a nice throwback to Corman. The aftermath of a human encounter with el monstro is handled very nicely indeed, in particular during the sequence when Beretta and Snowball explore the shoreline after an attack the night before.

Simpson has really lifted his game with El Monstro del Mar, and it is a superior film to Demonsamongus in every way. This is a down-and-dirty homage of some trash film heroes, a patchwork of influences that gel seamlessly to create a fast-paced film that is hugely entertaining. Recommended.
Generally good - and those artefacts that penetrate the crisp 16:9 picture can be excused by El Monstro's low budget.
The audio was problematic. The Dolby 2.0 track (not 5.1 as the slick incorrectly states) is poorly mixed, with dialogue sometimes inaudible. A lack of subtitles compounds this problem - I had to rewind a couple of times.
Extra Features
Two audio commentaries - one by the actresses (Watts, Scarlet and Capri) and one by the crew (including Simpson and Kocsis); a 13-minute interview with the cast (the focus being, of course, the girls); six-minutes of deleted scenes and two trailers for Monstro (plus a trailer for Lucky McKee's The Woman). Also included is one of Simpson's shorts, Acid Spiders, which is a completely barmy 15-minutes of fun.
The Verdict
El Monstro del Mar is a really terrific genre effort. The combination of crime road movie and monster flick immediately resembles From Dusk til Dawn, but the influences of Meyer and Corman are writ large and Simpson revels in all the excess. It's over-the-top, garish and quite brilliant.
Movie Score
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