Learning his father owes thousands to a deadly loan shark, thief Casper (Sam Strike) is looking for one big score. With less than a day to return the money he turns to friends Iris (Virginia Gardner) and Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall) when the perfect opportunity arises. When Iris gets a catering gig for a wealthy Malibu family it seems like fate to the trio of home invaders. They’re given even more incentive when they meet the Dawson family, including father, Patrick (Julian McMahon), mother Alexis (Erin Moriarty), son Elliot (Kian Lawley), and daughter Roxanne (Robin Tunney). As the gets begin to arrive we learn that this isn’t an ordinary soiree but a support group meeting. Led by the enigmatic Milo (Lance Riddick) the eclectic group are celebrating their three years without killing someone. With tensions already high within the house the slightest mistake from our team of home invaders can lead to the mother of all relapses.
Going into a smaller film like Monster Party one of the biggest warning signs can be the cast; particularly when it comes to the name talent. More often than not these big names are either in a glorified cameo or completely sleepwalk through their performance. Thankfully that isn’t the case with Monster Party. Every actor and actress put in a fun performance with just the right amount of cheesiness.
Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck) is at his sleezy best as family patriarch Patrick. A man who despite his made-up appearance is barely able to conceal the monster he really is. It makes for a great contrast to his Robin Tunney (The Craft) playing his wife. Trying to be a den mother to this support group of the damned she’s the only trying to keep everyone from giving in to their more sinister instincts. This is particularly true when even group leader Milo is pushed over the limit by one of his rowdier patients.
That isn’t to say it’s only the veteran actors putting on great performances. Virginia Gardner shines as the pregnant Iris. Of our three leads she is easily the most entertaining. Like Tunney she was able to keep her more ambitious partners in crime grounded. Between this and her memorable performance as Vicky in 2018’s Halloween I can’t wait to see what else she can do in horror.
Another solid performance comes happens behind the scenes from sophomore director Chris von Hoffman. Shot in only 17 days this up-and-coming writer-director shows a sense of flair with his stylistic directing. With help from cinematographer Tobias Deml, the two beautifully capture the Dawson family’s lavish lifestyle when juxtaposed against the carnage inside of the home. That isn’t to say Monster Party‘s presentation is flawless. As good as it can look quick cuts and blood splatter on the wall during the movie’s kills become frustrating. Especially when the gore effects look as good as they do. Monster Party‘s other big flaw is the story’s pacing.
Now I’m not one that needs a horror movie to be action from top to bottom. Recent hits such as Hereditary, It Follows and It Comes at Night have proven that atmospheric can not only work but be just as engrossing as the goriest slasher. Unfortunately, Monster Party lacks the substance to pull this film style off. The mind begins to wander as Dodge has to deal with the psychotic Elliot for what feels like the millionth time and by the time, we get to the second act and its performances it feels like it may be too little too late.
Even though home invasion movies typically make for an enjoyable watch I found Monster Party to be a bit middle of the road. One the one hand, captivating performances with the right amount of cheesiness and stylish directing were able to keep me engaged. On the other as good as the performances can be Monster Party’s slow pace and a lack of substance can make it a bit of a slog to watch. It’s a real mixed bag and while it may not be on par with some of it’s big budget brethren, Monster Party shows that there is a lot of untapped potential both in front and behind the camera.