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Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)

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Overall Rating 64%
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Ranked #3,166
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Robert Englund
Robert Englund
Trevor Matthews
Trevor Matthews
Daniel Kash
Daniel Kash
David Fox
David Fox
Dean Hawes
Dean Hawes
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Review by Chad
Added: October 06, 2008
Over the years, numerous filmmakers have attempted to recreate the magic that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell created when they teamed up on The Evil Dead and the two sequels. Some of these imitators - and really, that's what they were - have been good, but for the most part, you can tell that they were simply made by people who wanted to make a quick buck by doing the same damned thing that Raimi did almost thirty years ago. Call it what you will: "inspiration", "homage", or "ripoff", but it all boils down to somebody seeing those films and attempting to duplicate that formula in their own work. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, a little horror film that basically came out of nowhere, also attempted to recreate this formula... and you know what? It doesn't dethrone The Evil Dead as the king of cult horror, but for my money, it's one of the best "splatstick" releases in years.

We begin with a happy family out camping in the woods in what could easily be considered a scene straight out of a Rockwell painting. You've got the parents dancing by the light of the campfire to an oldies radio station while their two children are also dancing and having a good time, and really, these four people are the picture of happiness. Until, that is, a beast jumps out of the woods, kills the little girl, and then goes to work on the parents. The son manages to escape, and that leads us to present day...

...where we meet up with Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews), a thirty-something who has a bit of an anger problem due to his experience in the woods as a child. The years haven't been too kind to our hero, as he grew up without a family, landed a plumbing job that he isn't very good at, wound up with a bitchy girlfriend (Rachel Skarsten), and has been forced to enroll in the community college's science classes by said missus. Oh, and did I mention that he has a bit of an anger problem? At just the slightest provocation - a bump in the hall, or an unappreciated comment - Jack comes completely unhinged, lashing out at all those around him in violent fashion. Needless to say, this is causing some problems in his life, but his girlfriend hopes that by him getting an education and bettering himself, he'll be able to overcome his anger issues.

If only it were that easy. It all starts out innocently enough: Jack's professor, a fellow by the name of Crowley (Robert Englund), notices that Jack is a plumber by trade, and since Mr. Crowley is having some problems with his pipes, he asks his student if he'd be willing to come out and take a look at them. The problem is that Crowley's house is cursed, and to make a long story short (and to avoid spoiling everything), we soon wind up with a genuine monster on our hands. Wanting to redeem himself for running away and leaving his family to die, Jack grabs his plumber's belt and a pipe and sets out to slay himself a monster.

What makes this film work as well as it did was the way that the filmmakers recreated the style of the Evil Dead series (the second one, mainly) as well as Braindead and Bad Taste, and although you can see these inspirations throughout the film, you never get the feeling that this is just another ripoff. Yes, there are some similarities, but they're not specific enough to label the film as a direct imitation; what is imitated is the overall style of those films, and more importantly, the way that they were just damned fun horror flicks that didn't take themselves too seriously.

Now, this is not to say that Jack Brooks is a horror comedy, as I'm not sure that I would go quite that far. Yes, there are some humorous moments, and yes, there are a few jokes, but the overall film is more of a lighthearted horror flick than an out-and-out horror comedy hybrid. Again, I was reminded of the second Evil Dead film in that regard, and even though I enjoy a full-fledged horror comedy from time to time, I was happy to see that this one never crossed that line. With that said, there's no way that I could avoid mentioning an exchange between Jack and an elderly sales clerk that occurs after one particular flashback that was just downright hilarious.

Since I'm on a roll with the Evil Dead comparisons, let's do one more, shall we? I think that it goes without saying that that trilogy probably wouldn't be nearly as memorable without Bruce Campbell in the leading role, and I don't think that Jack Brooks would be quite as entertaining without Trevor Matthews. Matthews brings a sense of realism to an already well-written character, and it was his performance alone that prevented this plumber with an anger issue from feeling like a waterboy with an anger problem. This is a character that had plenty of potential to bomb out simply because of the various traits associated to him, but thankfully, it never did. The character was written well, but the actor made it work.

Of course, we've also got Robert Englund in what is more than a cameo but less than a starring role. Englund is a little more restrained in this film than he has been in his recent offerings, but make no mistake about it: this is still Englund that we're talking about. If you're not a fan of his over-the-top way of doing things, then this film will do nothing to change your mind about him. If, however, you're like me and love watching the guy do his thing, then you'll love what he brings to the film, and you'll also love the... well, the finale, let's leave it at that.

So, let's wrap this up by going down the proverbial list. Storyline? Check: it's nothing terribly original, but then, neither was Evil Dead back when it was released. It's strong enough to keep the film moving and it features more than a couple of surprises, so just because some of these angles have been played before does not mean that I'm going to dock points. Gore? It doesn't compare with the aforementioned Braindead in that regard, but it definitely has plenty of the red stuff for the gorehounds in the audience. Effects? A huge check: everything in the film was done with "man in a suit" practical effects and animatronics with not an ounce of CGI to be found. Overall entertainment value? Well, I found myself longing for more adventures of Jack Brooks before the credits had rolled, so to say that I loved this one would be an understatement. If you love The Evil Dead and Braindead as much as I do, then I'm pretty confident that you'll feel the same way. 10/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added 10/08/2008, 09:21 PM
I'm pretty sure I could pay to watch Robert Englund sleep and I wouldn't feel ripped off. This wasn't the most original movie concept, but it had a lot of heart, and was a great combination of laughs and scares. I can't wait for the sequel.

10/10
Cryptorchild #2: Cryptorchild - added 10/09/2008, 07:15 AM
This is a fun movie, just got finished watching it. Robert Englund is great. It's not perfect but it is pretty dan good. 8/10.
Nirrad #3: Nirrad - added 10/31/2009, 12:29 AM
Not what I really expected, but it was still good. Robert Englund was the best part about this. I'm gonna go with........8/10 I guess.
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