Thursday, April 16, 2015

On DVD and elsewhere: Matt Jackson/Michael Skvarla's LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS

By this time in movie history, comic horror is now a genre staple, nearly as oft-seen as the horror genre itself. A new addition to the oeuvre arrives in the form of LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS, and if that title put you in mind of the late Gabriel García Márquez and his Love in the Time of Cholera, I'm quite sure that's inten-tional on the part of the moviemakers, Matt Jackson (the director, shown below) and Michael Skvarla (the screen-writer).

As so-so a film as was the adaptation of "Cholera," "Monsters" proves equally so in the comic horror area, though its provenance is nowhere near as classy as that of Señor Marquez's now-classic novel.

Not that there aren't a number of funny moments here. There are indeed, and some of these are quite dryly delicious. My favorite: a cop car pulls up to driveway of a vacation resort (which has a reputation for trouble) and sees one of the resort's fabled "Bigfoot" impersona-tors feasting on the flesh of a recently deceased victim. "Well," the policeman mutters, "this is new."

There's more where that came from, too, from screenwriter Skvarla (pictured above), and perhaps the first thing that may grab you about the movie is how well-acted (for its low-budget genre) this film is. It begins with a family vacation a decade previous that goes very wrong.

Ten years (or so) later, the two sisters from that vacation finally agree to take one of their own, choosing a cheesy little tourist trap dedicated to the legend of Bigfoot and owned and operated by an even cheesier Croatian immigrant (the very good Michael McShane, shown at right, three photos below) who fancies himself a "patriotic American." His TV commercial for the park is one of the funnier things in the film: ridiculously all-American yet clearly made and spoken by a non-American.

One of the sisters' fiance has a job in the park as a Bigfoot impersonator, and early on in the film he and his crew manage to take a dip in a nearby lake -- loaded with toxic waste from corporate dumping -- and immediately turn into ravenous monsters (That they are wearing their Bigfoot suits at the time makes them both bizarre and humorous.)

Mr Skvarla has provided dialog that is often smart and funny, and the actors -- some well-known, particularly Kane Hodder and Doug Jones (below, left, and excellent, as always, in the role of the single "scientist" in the bunch), others less known but quite good -- do a fine job of bringing that dialog to life.

There are also a few suspenseful scenes, coupled, of course, to the requisite blood and gore that the genre demands, of which some of us viewers are growing a little tired by now. The envelope for the squishy/icky factor has been pushed so far that it is practically coming out the other side, resulting in "special effects" that no longer look very special. Though they are sometimes coupled to queasy humor, they still grow tired fast. (They could have used some of  that same dry wit provided by Mr. Skvarla's dialog.)

At 97 minutes, the movie could also have lost ten -- particularly the ones devoted to would-be "drama," as our slowly thinning-out cast tries to come to terms with the meaning of true love, caring and sacrifice for those we love. These moments seem more like vamping than anything else, and since the movie relies mostly on humor and splatter effects, their place in it all is questionable.

In the midst of this, we get a bizarre musical duet, and then some disco dancing and even a light show -- with a nod (intentional or not) to everything from Moose Murders to Piranha. The final 20 minutes include the real gore fest, nudity, and a gross-out finale complete with requisite last shot that, under better circumstances, would indicate a sequel or two. I rather doubt that possibility, but -- hey -- you never know!.

Made more for the hard-and-fast cult aficionado rather than a mainstream horror/comic-horror audience, Love in the Time of Monsters is available now on DVD and in other formats. Click here to start the ball rolling. 

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