28 Days ’til Halloween, 2014: The Monster Club (1980)

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Okay, so yesterday I referred to a movie that was more obscure and definitely more disturbing than the classics I’ve been posting. That movie was STRANGLER VS. STRANGLER by Serbian director Slobodan Šijan. I was going to post it today but it’s no longer available in full online. I’ve got the trailer right here, though, and the trailer is worth a look just for a taste of what you’re missing. It’s a disturbing punk/horror/comedy/social satire that’s somewhere between John Waters, Jorge Buttgereit, and Fassbinder. It’s worth tracking down if you live in a city that has a video store (they still exist) with obscure cult titles or if you can find a subtitled copy to, er, illegally download…that’s also a possibility. As I spent what seemed like hours trying to find it online today, I want it haunting this post like some sort of enigmatic holy grail that you’ll have to risk fire and flood to finally obtain. I guarantee it is as good as Jerry Lewis’s THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED.

No worries, though, as THE MONSTER CLUB is also great and I got that right here. It’s a British anthology film from 1980 that is just about as fun as fun can be. It’s the sort of movie that I can imagine watching as a nine year old while sorting out my Halloween candy on the floor…

Vincent Price plays a vampire named Erasmus who very politely drinks blood from his favorite horror writer before inviting him back to a real life “monster club” for a drink and some tale spinning. Each story segment hits all the right notes and the perfectly campy linking segments are just, well, “monsters” dancing around to New Wave-ish pop songs in false faces and big fake furry hands. It’s priceless. Amazingly, it also works. This was the great British horror director Roy Ward Baker’s last film and it has the feel of a “going away party” between good friends or the last night of a long running play. Everyone involved in this film was having a damned good time and it shows.

The first story features a pale creature called a “Shadmock”, more pathetic than frightening, who can do extraordinarily terrible things when he whistles. The tone is classic Amicus horror with an excellent, eccentric performance from the sympathetic monster.

The second story is a coming of age tale about a young boy and his vampire father. It reminds me of Ray Bradbury, actually, as it has the same poignancy and softly subversive message as his “monster family” short stories.

The third segment is more bizarre and overtly disturbing. The monster of choice here is the “ghoul”. It’s not the most popular creature in horror films, but I’ve always felt it unfairly neglected. There’s something particularly transgressive and alien about a creature that receives all sustenance from devouring old, rotting dead bodies…even if it’s unclear how that trait is a direct threat to human protagonists. Perhaps that uncertainty makes it even more frightening to me. What other horrible things do these ghouls do?

Trailer for STRANGLER VS. STRANGLER

THE MONSTER CLUB (1980)

 

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