DVD Review: El Monstro del Mar
Review by Marc Patterson
Damn whores. They don’t know what the hell they’re getting into.
Continuing on our oddly evolving, yet ever impromptu theme this month of horrifying sea creature films comes this new entry from Vicious Circle Films. I first saw El Monstro del Mar what feels like ages ago. The director sent me a copy, but I distinctly remember feeling underwhelmed after viewing it and never bothered with a critique since it wasn’t widely known at that time, and I was dubious if it would find its way to US shores anytime soon. Well, to some degree I was right, because that was two years ago. Now that it’s out on DVD I figure we might as well weigh in, so you can make an informed buying decision. After all, that’s kind of what we do around here.
Beretta, Blondie, and Snowball are three brash badass bitches on a murderous killing spree. We don’t know much about them other than that these pussycats run with violence coursing through their veins. They’re a gang of man-eating savages cruising the Australian countryside in a sweet ass Caddie, killing every swinging dick in sight. They’ve planned to crash at a small seaside village and hole up in a shack overlooking the ocean in order to lay low for a spell. But these hellcats aren’t going to get much time for cooling their heels. These honeys are in for a real surprise when they unknowingly anger an ancient evil lurking in the depths. What can I say? Karma is a real cunt.
El Monstro del Mar is a raging rocket of retro fueled mayhem. It’s rockabilly rebellion injected with a punk rock “fuck it all” attitude and it’s a heck of a lot of fun, but – at the same time it delivers a real mixed bag of goods that has me both loving this and shrugging my shoulders at the same time.
Let’s get the negative out of the way up front. By all means I didn’t expect this to be a heady sort of serious film, but I’d have at least assumed that we’d get a bare bones story. Unfortunately story and character development are two things that writer/director Stuart Simpson seemed to be uninterested in. I mean, there’s a skeleton of a framework which we desperately cling to, but otherwise we’re in for a totally experiential ride where we are forced to take everything at face value. I’ve seen many a Roger Corman film with more breadth and depth than what’s presented here, and honestly – that’s all I was hoping for.
Then there’s a problem with continuity of tone and general sense of pacing. The film starts with a high-powered adrenaline kick in the pants, but then fizzles and flounders like a fish out of water until we finally meander into the final moments of the film when shit goes totally bonkers. In between, we float along while the girls party, interact with a local misfit named Hannah (who is one of the only trained actors in the film) and cause trouble for the local men. Then, finally, comes that epic showdown with a sea creature which we know nothing about. There’s no back story for the girls, and neither is there a back story or legend for the monster. They’re just… well, they’re just there, and we have nothing else to do than accept it as such. The lack of foundational storytelling and mix & match pacing creates a feeling of disjointedness and cacophony that, while visually pleasant, I found to be otherwise confusing.
BUT, and here’s the big BUT… If you can put all of that aside then there’s actually a fun film in here. Or at least I think there is. As I said – the Lovecraftian beast from the depths doesn’t really have any motives, and the girls don’t seem to piss it off by doing anything except for going in the water, but in this sort of flick there’s no real need for explanation of motive, just good destruction – and that’s what we get. Whether it’s the girls being a general menace to society or whether it’s a bloody battle for their lives, there’s always something going on. The acting isn’t that fantastic, but again – this sort of drive-in schlock doesn’t ask for good acting, just pretty eye candy and lots of action.
As far as the ladies are concerned – there’s absolutely no nudity, which oddly for me didn’t prove to be a big deal. I mean, it would have been a lot cooler if there were some titties jiggling around, (especially Snowball’s) but I honestly didn’t care. For a B movie, I’m giving this one a rare pass in that department. Maybe it’s because El Monstro provided the other two ‘B’s in spades. Yes, El Monstro del Mar has got some great practical special effects – notwithstanding a hokey-looking monster.
Sure, in the effects department there’s a mixed bag of tricks at play, but it’s all for the better. For the most part Simpson relies heavily on practical effects. There’s gallons of karo syrup flying all over the place. He makes great use of mixed textures so that it’s not simply a straight blood bath, but rather the effects department adds some coloration and nasty grue to really beef things up. Big time kudos for that. All the way, this film represents practical gore gags done right, including a decapitation where the camera doesn’t cut away. Impressive. Simpson does augment and enhance the juicy splatter with some CGI, but it’s barely noticeable and he does it the right way, as a way of ENHANCING: it is not the be all and end all. So, props for that as well. Finally there’s the puppetry used for the monster, which was clearly a way of respectfully nodding to the monster creature-features of the 60s. As hokey as it was, it was still effective given the right pacing, editing, and tension-heavy music that doused the final showdown with suspenseful fun.
My biggest thought for improvement is that I honestly feel as though there’s a better film in all of this, one begging to be made. This could have been a riveting film with two movies in one, à la Dusk Till Dawn. The first half is where we experience the back story, the one that’s only hinted at, and the second half when shit goes to hell at the ocean side shack.
El Monstro del Mar sports a short run time of seventy-four minutes but it’s really only in the last fifteen minutes that anything happens which remotely relates to the title, and this was additionally disappointing, all things considered. I wouldn’t say this is perfect, then, but on the flip side it isn’t a waste of time either. Yes, you could confidently say that El Monstro del Mar is a perfect waste of time, and I’m good with that. While I’ve enjoyed it both times I’ve seen it, ultimately on both occasions I’d have rather watched Humanoids from the Deep, which is to say this makes a better lead-off to a double-feature than a stand alone feature by itself. And speaking of Humanoids… looky what I have cued up next!
The gals of El Monstro del Mar are smokin’!
So, this is how you piss off a sea-creature huh? Must be one cranky crustacean, because I’d want to drag them to the depths for entirely other reasons!
Just in case you had any questions on exactly how sadistic these gals are…
Ewww… Look at that bloody afterbirth!
It’s an epic battle to the death! Who wins, who dies and who makes it home is all up for grabs.
Hannah’s one bad ass shotgun toting monster killer!