The 1980s were a particularly good era for horror movies. The genre had existed before and had even seen many classics. Still, the 80s are seen by many horror fans as a Golden Age. Book of Monsters pays homage to the period while doing things its own way.
A joint venture from Epic Pictures and DREAD, Book of Monsters is the story of an 18th birthday party gone horribly wrong. Sophie’s friends have a party at her house, but thanks to a ritual, some monsters, and a book things take a bloody turn for the worse.
The first thing many will notice is Book of Monsters has a distinctly 80’s feel to it. The story in and of itself is something straight out of a slasher from the decade. It also has many of the characters that became tropes for many genres of the time. There is the shy protagonist with the troubled past, her tough friend, and the school bully who makes sure to make life tough for the heroine. These types of movies also need an unrequited love.
Book of Monsters checks everything off the horror movie bucket list, but never seems like a cheap copy. Writer Paul Butler has put a modern spin on the movie to make sure it never gets boring. The female driven cast is a different take on the sexcapades of the 80s. The love story is also one that would have been used for titillation but never as serious material. It is a neat trick. Tell a horror story fans will know and love, but do it in a way that is original.
What makes the writing work is nothing is ever played up to extremes. The love interest is more modern by horror standards, but Book of Monsters does not make a big deal out of it. As a matter of face, when someone points out this crush as a reason a character is being ostracized, the bully casually states they do not even care about it. Just like that, it is never brought up again. The fact the movie is filled with female leads is also never used as a crutch. There is no, “hey, check out those bad ass chicks” moments. The writing alone tells the movie’s story.
All of this works thanks to the great characters. Book of Monsters is a straight up horror movie, so there are Shakespearean character arcs, but what the movie gives its audience is exactly what is needed. Sophie can take care business, Mona is tough as nails, and Gary is there. The film does not give a deep dive into each character because it does not have to.
Horror and comedy go hand in glove. It is also very difficult to combine the two. Many times, the humor comes off as campy or even worse, out of place. It is hard to get someone to laugh and to make sure they stayed scared. Book of Monsters is able to pull it off. There are moments of sheer silliness, yet nothing ever seems campy. These are genuine laughs intersecting with real scares. There is also a clever recurring joke that helps further the relationship of two characters.
Book of Monsters is a great looking movie. There are some awesome practical effects. Scenes like these are always nice to see since there are less of them nowadays. The film also does not shy away from gore. There are some vicious kills. The creature effects are great. The monsters from the book are supposed to be some of the most frightening and powerful around and they look the part. (It was a little surprising to see one looked like a club DJ in a plague mask and another that would have fit in the J-Horror boom of the early 2000s.)
Book of Monsters is a fun horror movie that will impress fans of the genre. It is well written, funny, bloody, scary, and has some terrifying monsters in it. The plot contains pentagrams and virgin sacrifice rituals that sound comforting and familiar. Book of Monsters does not copy the horror movies from before but pays homage in a film even non fans can enjoy.