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Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer Review – A Throwback to the Cinematic Horror Carnivals of the Mid-Eighties

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Pass the cheese, please. Or just put on another screening of Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. A throwback to the cinematic horror carnivals of the mid-’80s, Jack Brooks is a low key, amiable flick in the vein of Evil Dead , Phantasm 2 or Killer Klowns from Outer Space. These days, when “fun” has been surgically removed from horror movies, this amounts to sheer genius and, to its credit, Jack Brooks is as enjoyable to watch as Hellboy 2, for a fraction of the Hellboy production budget. People have been giving it a hard time because it’s slow-moving, not very bright, and lumpy, but that’s what people said about Sloth from The Goonies and he’s everyone’s best friend.

Produced by a pack of Canadians, Jack Brooks tells the tale of a rage-a-holic plumber, Jack Brooks. Life is tough for Jack: His high maintenance girlfriend is making him go to night school, his plumbing jobs are few and far between, and the jobs he does get, he usually loses — due to his tendency to punch customers in the throat. Also, his parents were eaten by a monster when he was a kid. A human connection is forged when his chemistry teacher asks for a little after-school help with his new house’s balky plumbing system. But in the course of fixing the clogs, Jack uncorks a grave containing a disgusting, demonic black heart that possesses his teacher and turns the mild-mannered night school instructor into a monster-spawning womb sack with a rapacious appetite, wallowing in its own vomit.

It’s when the monsters start appearing that Jack’s life, and the
movie, come together. His rage is not a problem, it’s the tool he needs
to beat down the creatures. Whereas Ash relied on a chainsaw, and Ghostbusters
relied on proton packs, Jack just gets angrier and angrier, beating
monsters in the head with whatever comes to hand until they fall apart
in a puddle of slime. It’s an elegantly boneheaded solution and one
that underlines the movie’s sly sense of humor. Robert Englund plays
the chemistry teacher, and he’s having the time of his life not
appearing in Zombie Strippers.
David Fox is terrific as a cadaverous hardware store clerk, rivaling
Christopher Walken for weird line readings, and Trevor Matthews is not
only co-writer and co-producer, but he plays Jack with great gusto.
Every actor looks like they’re trying to steal the scenes they’re in,
from Rachel Skarsten as Jack’s put-upon princess girlfriend to James A.
Woods as a hippie/stoner/New Age/jock combo creature.

Praising Jack Brooks
is problematic: This movie is far more fun if you stumble across it on
your own. The second you have a single, solitary high hope for it,
start counting to ten and by the time you reach nine those hopes will
be dashed. I got sick of the number of opportunities that the director
let go sailing by, unnoticed, and by the time this flick finally cranks
into high speed, it’s almost over. But it’s hard not to love a movie in
which actors play actual characters (albeit broadly drawn ones) and
where the monsters are all latex and rubber, with nary a CGI effect to
be seen. And in a world of extreme in your face attitude, it’s
downright Canadian in its lowkey charms.

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