Retro Review: ‘The Monster Club’
One of my favorite subgenres of horror movie is the anthology film. I have always felt like they provide me a great bang for my buck with multiple terrifying narratives all encapsulated in a single film. From Dead of Night to Creepshow to Tales From the Dark Side, this style of horror film can give a celluloid variety bucket. So when I was on Shudder and came across this 1981 film The Monster Club I was more than happy to dive in and I am glad I did.
While on a nightly stroll, writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes crosses paths with an utterly charming vampire named Eramus. Being particularly hungry, the bloodsucker feeds on his new acquaintance and to thank him for being a good sport about it invited Hayes to the exclusive monster hangout the Monster Club. While the band is jamming and the crowd is partying the two share a drink while looking at the monster genealogy chart. This chart serves as the springboard for Eramus’ eerie tales. The first is about a young woman who is plotting with her boyfriend to steal from a wealthy but strange creature known as the Shadmok and ends up paying for it. Following that is the story of a young boy who discovers his father is a vampire being hunted by an inept vampire slayer played by Donald Pleasance. The third tale is the darkest with a director scouting locations comes across a community of flesh eating ghouls.
This movie plays out mostly with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek and it works so well. With two aging horror icons in Vincent Price and John Carradine in the lead, and an atmosphere of fun 80’s cheese it is impossible not to have fun with this flick. Both Price and Carradine are absolutely charming in their respective roles and them being the esteemed statesmen of terror serves as the grounding influence throughout. This allows for everything around them to be excessive and gaudy at the raucous Monster Club. In between story vignettes we even have the house band playing fun horror-theme rock n’ roll tunes. Throughout these surrounding segments and in the stories themselves there is definitely a streak of dark humor. The ending to the tale of the Shadmock is prime example of the goofy ending one traditionally finds in spooky cautionary tales. The idea of a vampire hiding out as a family patriarch in the suburbs of London is a premise rife with a cheeky horror goodness and they play it up perfectly. It is surprising that the director of this film is the esteemed veteran of British horror Roy Ward Baker. This was the man behind such classics from the Hammer House of Horror as Quatermass and the Pit, Scars of Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. It should not come as a surprise that his fingerprints are distinctly all over the more serious final segment of the movie.
All in all the Monster Club is a macabre good time for those who love monster movies. While it does not aim to be outright scary, the macabre campiness is executed perfectly and Price and Carradine are wonderful as expected. From start to finish the Monster Club is pure ghoulish entertainment.