Monster Party Review: A Robbery Goes Wrong

This is my review of Monster Party, a 2018 horror film available on Shudder, where I watched it. When I decided to watch this flick, I didn’t know anything about it other than thieves rob the wrong place.

First, a quick synopsis. Casper’s (Sam Strike) dad owes 10,000 dollars to a human scumbag, and if he doesn’t pay then the scumbag will kill Casper’s dad. This need for quick cash is what motivates the crime. Iris (Virginia Gardner) works for a catering company, and has a job at a very high end house the next day. Lucky break for Casper, right? Dodge (Brandon Micheal Hall) is Iris’s boyfriend, and he agrees that they he and Casper should pretend to be caterers, too, and steal whatever they can. Iris is not happy about this plan.

As you will see, as my Monster Party review continues, she has every right to be unhappy. Iris describes the family as weird and controlling, and that is evident immediately. When we first meet Roxanne Dawson (Robin Tunney) she is obviously stressed out. One of the reasons for her behavior is that the boys aren’t wearing the right clothes. Instead of sending them away and calling for replacements, she sends them upstairs. Why? To borrow clothes from her son, of course. I mean, that’s what people do, right. The daughter, Alexis (Erin Moriarty) shows them to his room.

The image shows Alexis, a young blonde woman smiling at the camera as if she knows what will happen at the monster party.
Alexis, the least creepy Dawson.

So, Casper and Dodge go upstairs and meet Elliot, a clearly disturbed individual. He makes some crude jokes about about how hot Iris is, and Dodge takes exception. This motif recurs throughout the film, and it’s always gross.

Speaking of gross, the dad Patrick Dawson (Julian McMahon) appears with bad facial hair which screams scuzzball.

The Guests Arrive to the Monster Party

After all the set up is out of the way, and the audience has a basic sense of who the players are, the guests arrive and shenanigans ensue. I want to say in this review of Monster Party that the filmmakers do a good job of setting up the tension. From the opening shots of the film that show the Dawson’s starting their day to the characters’ behavior, the filmmakers make it clear something is wrong. They add to this by having a young woman, Becca (Sofia Castro) mouth the words “Help me,” at Casper and Dodge as she enters the house.

Everyone in this film is a little weird, so there’s that. Plus, it is a horror movie, and those don’t always have the deepest characters. Still, I would have liked to get to know Casper, Iris, and Dodge a little bit better before the fun began. I am not sure what the movie makers could have done, but I wish they had tried. As it stands, Casper, Iris, and Dodge are mostly cyphers–blank slates. This works in horror films, and it mostly works in this one, but it also leaves me wanting.

So the dinner is on, as is the thieving. Iris stays downstairs to serve drinks and food while Casper and Dodge mess with the security system. They figure out a way to keep the cameras from spotting them when they go for the safe. However, there is a catch. One of them has to manually shut off the cameras every two minutes by pressing a button. Dodge gets that duty as Casper goes for the safe.

Let There Be Blood

At this point we start to get a better sense of who the guests are, and what the monster party is for. It seems these people are recovering addicts, and with help from Milo (Lance Reddick) they are beating their addiction.

In this moment, we don’t know what the addiction is, but we can guess it’s not drugs or alcohol. Roxanne begins the dinner with a speech about how she went running one day and saw a homeless man, and that was it. That’s the story.

Why does this matter? What is the point of this story? I think it is to foreshadow the reveal that these people are murderers who are trying to leave their murderous ways behind them. Which it, does in hindsight. However, when she gives the speech it comes off more as a way to remind us that these people are strange and nothing more. But, it works very well in that regard.

Meanwhile, Elliot has busted Dodge upstairs. Dodge thinks quickly and says he needs the bathroom. Elliot follows him because he’s looking for a bit of the old ultra violence. The house alarm sounds, and the blood bath begins.

Impressions and Thoughts

I am not going to go into much detail about what happens when the killing starts, suffice to say that there is some good gore and blood. If you are a fan of dismemberment, stabbings, and general horror movie violence, you should like this aspect of the film.

The kills themselves are not very inventive, and the camera frames the scenes from strange angles at times. Aside from these quibbles, the action is entertaining and easy to see. Though, sometimes the camera hides the action, or the characters do things which don’t make a ton of sense. But then, that is a common trope in horror movies.

I wouldn’t say this movie is particularly scary, though it does have some tense moments. It also gets a little ridiculous at times, but overall it was enjoyable. The fact that is is just under 90 minutes (credits included) helps keep the pacing tight and the action moving. There aren’t really any surprises or twists in it as it is more of a straightforward affair.

I loved the premise, though, and think there is some real potential for someone to come along and do something great with it. Unfortunately, those people were not the ones who made this movie.

Overall, I’d give it a 7/10 and say there are worse ways to kill an hour and a half. Lastly, if you love horror movies but don’t subscribe to Shudder, you should. It’s a great site with lots of classic films and new ones as well.

Have you seen Monster Party, and did you like my review? What did you think of this film? Let me know in the comments. I always love hearing from my readers.

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Don’t Root For Villains: They’re Awful

In the past ten years or so, if not longer, an idea has taken hold in storytelling circles. The idea is that the villain should be sympathetic. Well, maybe not sympathetic, exactly. Rather, the villain should be relatable and realistic. The reasoning goes, no one is the antagonist in their own story. Therefore, readers or viewers should be able to connect with the villain. To some extent, I understand and agree with this. After all, mustache twirling villains grow tiresome right quick. However, I also hate the idea that a villain has to be complex or sympathetic, or relatable. Villains are villains because they have chosen a path that leads to harming others in order to gain their objectives or get revenge. This is not something to cheer for. Don’t root for villains.

It is not difficult for me to understand why people see the need for well rounded villains in our entertainments. As I wrote earlier, one note villains are boring. Single note heroes are boring too; there needs to be more to the characters. Where I take issue is the idea that a story is better if the villain wins, or that it’s more interesting if the bad guy obtains victory. Should the bad guy be clever? Yes. Should they be a match for the protagonist? Of course. Does that mean we need to hope they win? No. Don’t root for villains.

Is a story sometimes better when the hero suffers, or even loses? Yes. Such things go against audience expectation, which is usually a great thing. Furthermore, it sets up the idea that the hero is fallible, which is not something that is always clear. Nevertheless, if the villain wins we shouldn’t feel good about it.

Don’t Root For Villains: They Don’t Deserve It

Look at Game of Thrones, for example. (The TV Show as I haven’t read the books.) That is a show where there are very few straight up heroic characters. It is also a show where the villains tend to win more often than not. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as there is some hope that good will prevail at some point. Does it have to be all roses and rainbows for the heroes? No, but it would be nice if they somehow managed to overcome evil and win the day. But should we be rooting for Cersei? Or the Mountain? Joffrey? The Night King? Are those the characters we really want to see win? And if so, why?

The image shows the Night King from Game of Thrones. He wants to kill everyone, which is why we don't root for villains.

(Note: I started this post before the new season of GoT started, and now I add Dany to my list. To be fair, though, I have never really considered the Mother of Dragons ascending to the throne a good thing.)

Generally, the structure of stories go something like: hero is big and bold, faces villainy, villainy wins for the moment, hero wins the day. Many people find this formula boring, and I admit it can feel routine and silly. If the hero always wins, it seems like there is no reason to tell the story.

Victory at a Price

However, just because a hero wins, doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer. In fact, some of the best stories are the ones where, yes the hero, or protagonist if you prefer, wins, but also suffers. A victory that comes at a great cost to the hero is the most interesting to me. In the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Batman achieves victory over the three adversaries he faces. Each coming at a cost. The mutant leader bruises his body.

Then, the Joker murders a bunch of people and stabs Batman repeatedly. Batman beats Joker within an inch of his life, but doesn’t kill the Clown Prince of Crime. Even at the end, he fails to take action that would ensure Joker never hurt anyone again. Then Joker manages to break his own neck, rendering Batman’s code pointless. Here is a two-fold example of failing while succeeding. Bats failed to save the bystanders, and then he failed to stop the Joker. Joker did that all on his own.

Additionally, this scene provides us with a glimpse of Joker’s triumph. He failed to goad Batman into killing him, but he did murder a bunch of people that Batman wanted to save. A win for a Joker, and a loss for Batman.

Finally, still in the Dark Knight Returns, Batman fights Superman. He has a plan, and he wins, but again at a cost. Not only does bats get some broken ribs for his troubles, but he also has to fake his own death. Essentially, after this, the Batman is no more. (Until Dark Knight Returns 2, that is.)

We don’t root for the villains in this story, but their successes make Batman’s failures, and ultimate victory, more meaningful. He faces adversity and overcomes it.

Why Root for the Villains?

The real world is scary enough and is full of enough real assholes and villains . Do we need our entertainments to reflect reality so much that we watch the bad guys (or antagonists, if you prefer) win? Have we become so jaded that a heroic victory is boring and predictable?

I am not arguing for boring stories. I am, however, arguing that a story can still be interesting and entertaining, even when we know the heroes will win, most of the time. Heroes win, and they should. People read stories to escape, and a happy ending helps.

A good story about a villain you want to see reach their goal can work. I’ve read and seen a few. There’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, I enjoy stories told from the villains’ perspective, as long as they still fail and get their comeuppance.

The Americans is a good example. Elizabeth and Phillip are villains presented as protagonists. However, they are evil, murderous liars with few redeemable qualities. I wanted them to live, but I didn’t want them to win.

My issue is the idea that a story is boring or uninteresting if the heroes win. The journey matters more than the ending. If you need the hero to fail and the villain to win for the journey to be fun for you, then we have distinctly different ideas about stories.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


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