The audience first meets Jack Brooks as a child, his parents brutally assaulted by a monster in the forest. For all of its tragedy, the sequence is well done, lit properly, and directed with some flair by Jon Knautz.
Then the movies dies as brutally as Jack’s parents. Like the sci-fi cheapies of the ‘50s, Monster Slayer fills itself with nothing but banal dialogue. There is hope. Some mystery seems to remain as Jack (Trevor Matthews) tries to hide his injured hand from his therapist. Did he have a late night run-in with some beast from the netherworld? Was he bit by an invader from another planet? Did a zombie get the better of him?
Nope, he’s a plumber and got cut on the job.
That is supposed to be the joke, along with the angry plumber battling monsters, but that doesn’t happen until the 20-minute finale. Between all of that, you’re left with watching Robert Englund as Professor Gordon Crowley, a role designed to make Englund look ridiculous as an ancient curse overtakes him. Numerous scenes of Jack dealing with his anger hammer home the point… repeatedly.
There is a lack of fun to Jack Brooks. Brooks himself is terribly uninteresting, and Crowley steals the show, vomiting on a blackboard and using his arm to clean it up after his possession. It is a gross-out gag that works, unlike much of the downtime in this film.
It is a shame too, because the drought of interesting material weakens the energetic, low-budget fun of the ending. Crowley becomes a hulking mass, slithering tentacles around the school, and turning students into zombies. All of this is done practically, and the benefit is evident. Even if the monster is unconvincing, it exists, and it makes all the difference. It nearly saves this sluggish, even boring affair, but at this point, it’s not enough.
This Blu-ray comes from Brookstreet Pictures, delivered a VC-1 encode that at times is a mess. Edge enhancement is thick and distracting throughout. It is most evident inside the therapists office and the classroom. Chairs and tables consistently have halos, and Robert Englund nearly always has a dark outline around his lab coat.
Grain is intact and inoffensive, but this still looks processed or scrubbed. Fine detail is not fully resolved, appearing somewhat soft and unnatural. Oddly, the bookend scene in a forest looks fine, even spectacular. The saturated colors and rich blacks are eye-catching, but it is all for naught.
While the colors remain bright and the contrast fair, the movie begins to appear lifeless. Black crush dominates a scene inside Crowley’s home. Textures become flat, and faces digital instead of film-like. Only close-ups perform up to par.
Brookstreet also skimps on audio, delivering a compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. That said, despite the lack of a next-gen codec, this one performs admirably.
One note should be made, an audio dropout during a thunder clap at the marker 24:10. Otherwise, this is an atmospheric, involving mix. Bass is somewhat muddy, but still quite powerful. The rousing score bleeds into the rears extensively, and a fine separation exists in the front channels. Loads of dialogue is tracked into the sides and rear channels.
Monster roars are aggressive in the surrounds, and a nice layer of ambiance exists in the forest scenes. Action on-screen is accurately represented in all channels, even as creatures munch on people or animals.
Playing Jack Brooks is confusing. The movie starts when you put in the disc, but none of the buttons on the remote work to access a menu. That is because the Blu-ray doesn’t have one, or any extras, or even subtitles. This is as barren a retail disc as you’ll find.