MONSTER PARTY (2018)
aka KILLER PARTY
Directed by Chris von Hoffmann
Written by Chris von Hoffmann
Starring Sam Strike, Virginia Gardner, Brandon Micheal Hall, Kian Lawley, Robin Tunney, Erin Moriarty, Julian McMahon, Chester Rushing, Jamie Ward, Lance Reddick, Diego Boneta, Sofía Castro, Bill Engvall, Mickey Gooch Jr., Howard Charles, Logan Huffman, Michael Reilly Burke, Christine Kent
I missed this one when it dropped a while back, but was able to catch up with it now and I’m glad I did. MONSTER PARTY feels like the product of an unholy union of READY OR NOT and DON’T BREATHE, instilling all of the fun of those films into one deadly and entertaining package.
Caspar (Sam Strike) is in desperate need of big money in order to get his father out of debt with a dangerous bookie. Caspar just happens to be part of a three-person operation that robs from the rich and gives to themselves. Knowing they need big money, one of the other robbers Iris (Virginia Gardner) suggests the home of the Dawsons, a wealthy mansion with a potential buttload of cash in its safe, it also happens to be where she works as an event server. So Caspar, Iris, and Dodge (Brandon Micheal Hall) suit up and prepare to case the place while in disguise as servers, not knowing that the event they are hosting is an addicts anonymous meeting for psychopathic killers. Hosted by the head of the household Patrick Dawson (NIP/TUCK’s Julian McMahon), his wife Roxanne (Robin Tunney), and their bratty kids, including THE BOYS’ Eric Moriarty, the party goes well until one of the killers invited to the party gets weak and murders someone, which triggers the rest of those at the party to jump back off the killing wagon again. While Caspar, Iris, and Dodge plan on ripping the Dawsons off, the Dawsons are planning to rip the would-be robbers heads off.
While elements are taken from other films, MONSTER PARTY remains one of the more entertaining deadly romps I’ve seen in quite a while. The pace is speedy and the violence, over the top, giving the entire film a darkly comic tone that really appealed to me. Sure we’ve seen the glitzy dinner party turn into a manhunt before, but each character is fleshed out nicely with details that make them either twisted, sympathetic, or sometimes both. Either way, each of them are unique and fun to watch.
One of the things I found surprising is that I didn’t want any of these characters to die. They all have things to live for, dreams to fulfill, and futures we as the viewer hope they achieve. By keeping the body count low and giving Caspar, Iris, and Dodge distinct characters, my investment in them were higher than usual in these types of films. I even was bummed that some of the crazy family were offed as they were a lot of fun as well.
I really think a lot of the young cast in MONSTER PARTY are going to be showing up in major roles some day soon. Sam Strike is an unlikely hero, but has an everyman quality that is easy to root for. As does Brandon Michael Hall’s Dodge who is in a relationship with Virginia Gardner’s Isis. All three of these characters are given a lot to win the audience over in a very short time. At the same time, Erin Moriarty shines here as the only member of the Dawson family with some semblance of a heart. And Kian Lawley plays a true asshole in need of a well deserved comeuppance as the brat Eliot Dawson. Add in some wizened pros like Julian McMahon (who plays a conniving and callous villain to a tee here), Lance Reddick (who is extremely creepy with his subtle but ominous presence), and especially Robin Tunney (who is at her jittery best here in one of the brightest performances in the whole film), and you have a fantastically solid cast.
The gore is over the top and the tone is blackly comedic without being cartoony or goofy. There is always a sense of danger, even before the first drop of blood is spilt, and some scenes are as tense as they come. Writer/director sets up this game board with all kinds of monstrous players and treacherous obstacles in a deft and raucous way. While the film should have ended five minutes sooner and the last couple of minutes go over the top in a way that sort of betrays the dangers set up right from the start, I still think MONSTER PARTY is going to surprise you with its bloody bag of twisted family fun.