Monsters in the Closet a Savvy Take on Horror Anthology Movie Genre

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Monsters in the Closet

Variety, so the saying goes, is the spice of life. So, too, in cinema--particularly horror cinema, where triteness sometimes reigns--is diversity a welcome feature. The anthology format, so common in the grindhouse and VHS days of yore in films such as Black Sabbath, The House That Dripped Blood, Creepshow, and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, has experienced a revival in the past decade through the V/H/S series, Trick r’ Treat and the recent (and excellent) Grave Intentions. As a narrative form, the anthology delivers a quick-jolt of instant terror gratification; there’s precious little time to establish Exorcist-level mood, suspense and characterization in a fifteen-minute segment. Its storytelling stripped to the barest of bones, and individual tales are often hit-or-miss.

Now, Purgatory Blues has unleashed yet another anthological attempt with Monsters in the Closet, a savvy take on the subgenre that boldly builds upon its film forbearers. The movie’s wraparound portion introduces Jasmin (Jasmin Flores), daughter of notorious (and notoriously eccentric) world-famous horror author Raymond Castle (Tom C. Niksson). Growing up, Jasmin shared a strained relationship with her frequently angry and work-obsessed dad, and now, as an adult, she’s determined to uncover the mystery of his sudden disappearance. Learning Raymond had acquired a 17th century grimoire of black magic rituals that will enable anyone who reads his fiction aloud to become a live-action participant in the story, Jasmin is forced to fight for her life from the monstrosities birthed by her father’s twisted creative mind.

The opening segment, ‘Please Kill Me Again’, centers on Genny, a young woman attempting to survive a zombie outbreak in her city who soon acquires her own culinary taste for brains. The tale’s quirky, post-modern Shaun of the Dead inner monologue play-by-play and crafty first-person perspective (Genny isn’t portrayed by any single actress, but an array of performers), delivers a raucous, oddly endearing ghoul’s-eye-view of an undead apocalypse.

A lovey-dovey young couple purchasing their first fixer-upper house are the focus of Monsters’ second installment, ‘Home Improvement’. Too-cute-to-be-sane hipsters Zeke (Luke Couzens) and Tina (Carmilla Crawford), begin the endeavor in high spirits, assured their do-it-yourself renovations will bring them even closer together, but the never-ending repairs eventually and inevitably take a toll on their mental states to the point of mutual power-tool mutilation.

‘The One Percenters’, perhaps the film’s strongest section, revolves around Tiffany (Jordan Flippo), the spoiled college-age daughter of sleazy millionaire Chester Collins (Phillip Green Dad), who reluctantly allows her to slum it by going camping with her lower-income friends. Once in the wilderness, however, jealousy (mistakenly) arises regarding new boyfriend Vinny (Nelson JoaQuin) and bestie Maureen (Shanna Bess) that ends with Tiffany accidentally killing her would-have-been fiancée. Worried her future prospects at Princeton are over, Tiffany proceeds to hunt down the remaining witnesses in a clever inversion of murderer-in-the-woods clichés.

The movie’s weakest segment, ‘Frankenstein’s Wife’, highlights the madcap mayhem mad scientist Victor (John Fedele) unleashes when he unintentionally causes the death of his nagging bride, Valerie (Valerie Bitner), and proceeds to resurrect her with ribald results. Reminiscent of 1962’s The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, there’s an obvious revelry in over-the-top B-Movie zaniness that quickly descends into camp even as it strives to retain a blatant Re-Animator edge but that loses a viewer’s attention at the most crucial stage.

Despite (or maybe because) of its reliance on humor, many of those same viewers may not recognize the more complex notions underneath the skin of Monsters in the Closet. Beneath the laughter and artery-opening antics, a serious question concerning existence is posed: Where does the line between fantasy end and reality begin? The wraparound section’s core idea--that of horror stories come to life--isn’t new (direct homage connections can be made between Monsters and Anthony Hickcox’s 1988 meta-horror-comedy blast Waxwork, right down to the ambulatory amputated appendage featured in both films), but it is daring in its subversive accusation of the audience as participant in the grisly proceedings. There’s an assertion that those who consume horror are, by virtue of both their voyeurism and desire for ever more fear-inducing product--complicit in the creation of onscreen violence.

An obvious labor of love, the entirety of the movie was written, co-directed, edited and produced by the Snygg Brothers, Spencer and Zachary, who even labored to provide their own impressive visual effects. Their directing styles likewise draw in the audience with keen kinetic motion and a rowdy atmosphere that gleans pleasure in its macabre merriment. Exultant in its unabashed adoration of horror even as it skewers tropes, this is a motion picture made by and for terror fans, especially those who enjoy their slaughtering shenanigans with a side of silliness, and it’s for this reason that I bestow Monsters in the Closet a respectable 3.5 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale. Best viewed with popcorn, beer and some best friends with similarly skewed tastes.

3.5 / 5.0