Director Stuart Simpson brings buckets of style to his rockabilly horror film El Monstro Del Mar. His trio of murderous vixens are certainly beautiful, and he knows how to shoot them to best effect. Everything looks very cool indeed. Unfortunately, style and a sense of cool are not enough to carry the film, and it never quite comes together.
Our introduction to Beretta (Nelli Scarlet), Blondie (Karli Madden) and Snowball (Kate Watts) is in black and white. They sit stranded on the side of a desolate Australian roadway, waiting for someone to come by and help. They're in luck, because a couple of dimwit locals happen to drive past and offer their assistance, but the girls want more than just a jumpstart. They kill the two unfortunate fellows and take their car to a rundown seaside shack, where they want to hide out for a few weeks after a recent, bloody heist. They quickly relax, drink a few beers and jump into the ocean for a quick swim.
But something is wrong on this particular patch of Australian beach. An old man in a wheelchair gives them a cryptic warning to stay out of the water, which they of course ignore. Before long, they meet the old man's granddaughter Hannah (Kyrie Capri), and invite her over for a few drinks, even though she's only seventeen. As they night goes on, they coax Hannah into trying her first sips of alcohol, then gulps of it. They all have too much to drink, and Snowball decides to take a midnight dip in the ocean.
Of course, things go poorly from here on out. When Beretta, Blondie and Hannah wake up, painfully hung over, Snowball is nowhere to be found. Hannah goes to confront her grandfather over his too strict ways and domineering personality, and the other girls go looking for their friend. They find more than they would like, for an evil creature from the sea has attacked the tiny village.
The rest of the film involves battling monsters, girl power, asserting independence, and lots of fun gore and blood effects. The CG effects leave a lot to be desired, and there is an occasional tentacle that is clearly a hand puppet, but other than that El Monstro Del Mar is basically a technical success as a splatter film, and will certainly please the fans of that genre. There are other ways it works as well. The actors all turn in effective and natural performances, especially the four female leads. And they are quite attractive, in that retro / rockabilly way. Lots of tattoos and strenuous efforts to look like Betty Page, but it works for them. And Simpson certainly knows how to shoot a film with lots of style and pizzazz, on what appears to be a very low budget.
However, the film is at once plodding and lightly plotted. It's only seventy two minutes long, and a lot more time should have been spent developing the back story of the Beretta, Blondie and Snowball. And much more attention could have been focused on building tension and exploring the sea monster and its history with the town. Loads of potential exists for creepiness and drama that is left entirely unexplored. But given the slight plot, a lot of time is spent on watching the three girls dance around, drink beers and kid each other. Normally I wouldn't complain about watching pretty girls interact, but none of this moves the plot along or contributes much to the film. These portions could have been cut considerably, and their arrival at the beach moved up, leaving plenty of time to really sink our teeth into the creepy old man and the strange history of the place.
Unfortunately, that's not the story here. Stuart Simpson has the makings of a great cult horror film, but can't quite make it work. Still, there's a lot to like in El Monstro Del Mar. It's fun at times, has lots of great gore effects, and even more beautiful women. It's certainly worth a viewing. Rent it.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and generally looks good. The colors are mostly muted, in keeping with the subject matter, with a few bright pops of red, mostly for bathing suits or blood. There are lots of deep shadows and good contrast.
Audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and works moderately well. The dialogue is always audible, and no hiss or other problem can be heard. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included.
There are several extras included. They are:
Behind the Scenes
This is almost four minutes of behind the scenes material, with a few bloopers, some premier footage, etc.
Six and a half minutes of deleted scenes, mostly cut for time it seems. The girls flirt some more, Hannah chops some wood, small stuff.
Interviews with several of the actresses and actors after having seen a rough cut of the first ten minutes. They talk about memorable moments, favorite scenes, and working on an independent film. Interesting.
Two short films are included: Acid Spiders, directed by Stuart Simpson, and Context directed by Jack Wack. They are both interesting, and have high production values, though Context is the better of the two, and the longer, coming in at 23:33. These are both worth watching.
A slide show of production stills and promotional shots, coming in at 2:40.
El Monstro Del Mar Trailer
The trailer is just over a minute, and is mediocre.
Breaking Glass Trailers
Trailers are included for The Summer Massacre, George: A Zombie Intervention and Wound.
Two commentaries are included, one featuring Stuart Simpson, FX guru Nick Kocsis, costume designer Claire Muller, production assistant Chris Malone and producer Fabian Pisani. The other commentary is with lead actresses Nelli Scarlett, Karli Madden and Kate Watts. The commentary with the director and crew is certainly the more engaging, with lots of insight into production woes and set anecdotes. There's a lot there for those interested in low budget filmmaking. The actor commentary is moderately interesting, but not as informative, though there is one fleeting Pinky and the Brain reference.
El Monstro Del Mar has a lot of the elements of a successful cult horror film: sexy women who kill and have fun while doing it, good performances, mostly high quality effects, and a certain amount of verve. However, its meager storyline and poor pacing doom it to mediocrity at best. This film could have been great, but wasn't quite. Hopefully, Stuart Simpson will continue making films, keep the great style, and improve elsewhere.