El Monstro del Mar!
Details: (R18+), 74 mins, Australia, English
Synopsis: Three gorgeous but deadly hired killers, Beretta (Nelli Scarlet), Blondie (Karli Madden) and Snowball (Kate Watts), hole up in a small beachside community to keep a low profile. But this town has a dark secret. The local old sea baron, Joseph (Norman Yemm), tries desperately to warn them to never go into the water. But these crazy vixens listen to no one, especially no crazy assed old fool. So the Kraken awakes! Now, along with Joseph and his beautiful grand daughter, Hannah, they must fight for their lives against this furious creature of the deep as the sea rises in a tidalwave of blood.
A supremely sick mash-up of B movie mayhem.
Adopting the Mexican moniker of the 1953 B movie classic The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, director Stuart Simpson’s supremely sick mash-up of rebellious rockabilly, serial-killer slice-and-dice and sea-monster malarkey is a seriously out-there debut feature. Destined to have bong-toting teens and self-scarring Goths working their pause/rewind buttons like never before, Simpson’s low-budget, high-energy burlesque-infused bloodbath is a style-over-substance shocker that brazenly dares audiences not to bestow upon it cult status and midnight-screening high priority.
The ‘heroines’ of Simpson’s film are three murderous good-time girls – Beretta (Nelli Scarlett), Blondie (Karli Madden) and Snowball (Kate Watts). Bejewelled she-devils who have left claret-stained carnage in their wake, they dispense of two randy good Samaritans in a very cool black-and-white pre-credit sequence before descending upon the seaside shanty town located on Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay.
Stripping down to their bikini briefs and tattooed bods for a dip in the icy waters (and kudos to the actresses for suffering for their art, because the wintry location looks f***ing freezing), the trio attract and annoy wheelchair-bound resident Joseph (Norman Yemm), who warns them of the sea’s mysterious dangers. As the girls late-night partying grows out-of-control, Joseph’s grand-daughter Hannah (the strikingly-photogenic Kyrie Capri) tries to calm them, only to be caught up in the drunken, coke-fuelled bash until she passes out.
As most of us who have enjoyed such an event can attest to, the reality of morning brings the horrors of the night before into sharp focus. Snowball is missing; the gruesome remains of a group of local fisherman scatter the beach; and Hannah, her face smeared by make-up so as to resemble a grotesque caricature of the villainous vixens, is ashamed and fiercely hungover.
Soon, as the bodies pile up and the monstrous denizen of the deep that so frightens Joseph makes his murderous presence known, Simpson’s film begins to exude a wildly enjoyable ‘what could possibly happen next?’ mindset. And, despite a meagre budget, Simpson doesn’t let us down – his obvious understanding of the genre, precision as an editor and assuredness with both old-fashioned monster-movie lore and corner-store effects technology ensures that festival crowds who come for sultry babes, violence and B movie beats won’t be disappointed one little bit.
The frustrating downside is that Simpson the scriptwriter does Simpson the director no favours. The party sequence, which takes up an unnecessarily extended mid-section of the film, is too talky; the sense of menace that had been so cleverly established begins to dilute and character-heavy over-plotting, with particular regard to the disappearance of Hannah’s mother in the chilly depths years before, stalls the devil-may-care abandon the film had revelled in up to that point. A poignant and nicely-acted scene that culminates in Hannah’s first kiss with a local nice guy (played by David Gannon) ultimately goes nowhere and could have supplied some much-needed drama and a dollop of humour had Gannon been introduced to the party scene.
Not that the cult-horror crowd will leave screenings of this film examining its structure, dialogue and dramaturgy. What they will be buzzing about is the smashingly seedy influence on the film of sleaze-maestro’s Russ Meyer, Tinto Brass, Roger Corman and Quentin Tarantino, particularly his Death Proof segment of Grindhouse (2007). Throw in the guilty-pleasure monster movie references (Ron Underwood’s Tremors, 1990; Barbara Peter’s Humanoids of the Deep, 1980) and you have a fearless, modern Ozploitation spin on a dark, dirty and beautiful period of American underground cinema.
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