El Monstro Del Mar!
by Jason Coffman
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While the grindhouse nostalgia train keeps rollin’, Australian filmmaker Stuart Simpson has gone back further in time for his inspiration, to the exploitation and creature features of the 1950s and 1960s. El Monstro Del Mar! comes on like a hybrid of Russ Meyer and Roger Corman, and its opening minutes are so convincing that it’s almost a disappointment when the black & white film changes to color. Still, El Monstro Del Mar! has a distinct 60s flavor that helps it stand out from the direct-to-disc throng, and it’s one of the better recent imports from Breaking Glass Pictures.
Beretta (Nelli Scarlet), Blondie (Karli Madden) and Snowball (Kate Watts) are on their way to a sleepy seaside town where a friend has set up a hideout for them to lay low and wait for things to cool down after their last job. See, these ladies aren’t just fans of rockabilly music headed for the beach, they’re stone cold killers. Once they reach their destination, they are warned to stay out of the water, but only after they’ve been splashing around for a while. That night their loud partying annoys their wheelchair-bound neighbor Joseph (Norman Yemm), who sends his granddaughter Hannah (Kyrie Capri) to tell them to quiet down.
Instead, Hannah reluctantly ends up partying with the girls and waking the next morning with a killer hangover. But a hangover and a disappointed grandpa are the least of Hannah’s worries now: something in the water that has slept for the last 15 years has been awakened, and it’s hungry for human flesh. As townsfolk start disappearing, the lethal ladies find themselves in the position of reluctant heroes, unwillingly drawn into a showdown with an ancient sea creature that is more than happy to eat any living creature that happens to get in its way.
El Monstro Del Mar! is a lot of fun, but even with its slim running time of just over 70 minutes, there’s not quite as much “Monstro” as one might expect. Despite a few sequences sprinkled through the film, the monster is never shown in all its stop-motion glory until the finale— true to many of the films that inspired Monstro. Also, the Russ Meyer aesthetic carries over to the actual amount of nudity on display. In other words, if you’ve seen Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, you’ll know what to expect, but anyone thinking this is going to be a non-stop parade of naked ladies is going to be sorely disappointed. Writer/director Stuart Simpson mostly keeps the content of the film true to its 1960s inspirations, although the gore seems imported from another highly influential 60s filmmaker: Herschell Gordon Lewis. When it comes to violent scenes, Simpson doesn’t skimp on the red stuff. El Monstro Del Mar! is a good time, and fans of bad girls, vintage monster movies and buckets of gore should not miss it.
Breaking Glass Pictures releases El Monstro Del Mar! on DVD on 28 February 2012. Special features include cast and crew commentary, a behind the scenes featurette, interviews with the actresses, deleted scenes, and two short films: “Acid Spiders” and “Sickie.”
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and is a regular contributor to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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