How To Kill Monsters

How To Kill Monsters (2023)

How To Kill Monsters had its world première on Fri 25th Aug at FrightFest

It begins with the end. Jamie Lancaster (Lyndsey Craine) emerges from a cabin in the woods, with her Little Red Riding Hood costume bathed in blood and a chainsaw purring in her hands. She is a classic final girl – the sole survivor of gory massacre that left four others messily dead, including her boyfriend Daniel (Dennis Rasaq). As the police pick her up outside and she at last seems safe, the words ‘The End’ appear in capitals on screen, and so like Gaspar Noé’s Climax (2018) – although the comparison begins and ends here – Stewart Sparke’s How To Kill Monsters opens back to front with its closing credits coming even before the opening title.

This is not a ‘how did I get here?’ narrative – or at least not for long. For as Jamie realises that the police are not rescuing but arresting her, she is quick to recap in the station’s interrogation room the satanic ritual and monstrous incursion that went down in the cabin, only to find her interviewers incredulous, not least because, as they point out, her story is a concoction of horror cinema clichés – chiefly from Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) – that cannot possibly be true. Yet as Jamie is placed in a holding cell, with the menacing Tinny G (Nicholas Vince) and a fractious hen party (Fenfen Huang, Juné Tiamatakorn, Michaela Longden, Louella  Gaskell) in adjacent pens, they are about to have to join forces with hapless station officers Dennis (Arron Dennis), Melvin (Daniel Thrace) and Dara (Johnny Vivash) and their near-retirement chief Landry (Andrina Carroll). For when forensics specialist Casey (Yvonne Okyere) opens the ‘Eldritch Blade’ – a centuries-old relic found in the cabin and now in police evidence  – she inadvertently opens an interdimensional portal which admits a host of vicious monsters.

So How To Kill Monsters is all at once a Lovecraftian rewrite of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) – with a lot of Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984) and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) thrown in – and a splatterfest of Eighties-style practical effects, Raimi-esque pandemonium and blood by the bucketload. Mostly, though, it is very, very funny, sharing its absurd comic tone, and many of its cast members, with Book of Monsters (2018). Indeed it was originally intended to be a sequel to Sparke’s previous film, but now, like its many monsters, occupies an alternative universe with only occasional intersections. While it is always chasing, and consistently catching, a good laugh, it also boasts a narrative that is tricksier than it might at first appear – and much as it begins with the end, it also comes with an apocalyptic, eschatological focus, where the end proves sometimes just to be the beginning. 

strap: Stewart Sparke’s horror comedy is both the beginning and the end of all Lovecraftian interdimensional siege pictures

© Anton Bitel