Monday, November 5, 2018

Release the Beast: "Monster Party" depraved fun, until it's not


Monster Party (2018)
89 min., not rated (equivalent of an R).

A dash of 2016’s “Don’t Breathe” and a pinch of 2013’s “The Purge” with an energy not unlike 2018’s “Mom & Dad,” “Monster Party” sets up a tense situation in the guise of a dinner party with fellow AA members. Casper (Sam Strike) and his two friends, couple Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall) and Iris (Virginia Gardner), survive by ripping off yuppies. When Casper discovers his gambling-addicted father to be in a live-or-death jam with a strip-club crime lord, he needs to come up with $10,000. Luckily, Iris is planning to cater a dinner party for a well-off Malibu family, the Dawsons, so Casper and Dodge pose as Iris’ hired help. 

Roxanne Dawson (Robin Tunney), the matriarch, struggles to put on a happy face between her swigs of white wine, while patriarch Patrick (Julian McMahon) is clearly a creep, and their children, sexy yet acerbic Alexis (Erin Moriarty) and smug, intimidating Elliot (Kian Lawley), couldn’t be more different. Then the guests arrive, including Milo (Lance Reddick) and his much-younger arm candy, Becca (SofĂ­a Castro); two obnoxiously douchey bros (Jamie Ward, Chester Rushing); and a slicked-back-haired guitar player (Diego Boneta). While the Dawsons and their guests make a toast, Casper and Dodge scope out the rest of the house and try to open the safe, leaving Iris to keep guard in the kitchen. It’s a celebratory dinner for their sobriety as addicts, but considering the resident douches have already done bumps of coke and white wine is served at dinner, they are suppressing more lethal urges, and things quickly go horribly wrong.

Written and directed by Chris von Hoffmann (2016’s “Drifter”), "Monster Party" is depraved fun, until it’s not. Most of the cast gets to chew scenery, and while it’s fun for a while, there’s not enough emotional investment in the burglar characters (except for maybe the pregnant Iris), and even if there was, nearly everyone dies in a senselessly cruel way. There is efficient style and a perverse sense of humor to most of the over-the-top carnage throughout, but by the end, all that seems to be here is an unsympathetic, nihilistic exercise in violence.

Grade: C +

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