Monsturd: Thumbs up! (somewhere)
To call Monsturd a load of crap would be an understatement. Monsturd, in fact, is the biggest load of crap to be released from the bowels of the Bay Area in quite some time. Directors Rick Popko and Dan West were able to gather a courageous group of near-actors, almost-special effects whizzes, and
one great composer to round out a vision including a melange of classic horror tropes: the mad scientist, the bucolic town, the escaped convict, and the chili cook-off.
Yes, indeed, the directors have dumped the most gigantic turd that's hit DVD this Halloween -- or, think gift giving holidays. This Hanukkah I'm giving out copies with each spin the dreidel.
The film centers on a bedtime story a little girl tells her father about the idyllic county of Butte, which is living each day unaware of the threat it shall soon face. Two forms of evil are about to collide: a mad scientist named Dr. Stern (Dan Burr) and his Dutech Corporation start an experiment with bacteria; and the fugitive serial killer Jack Schmidt (Brad Dosland) heads to town. The opening sequence foreshadows the use of Foley sound (a rarity in many B-flicks) as a bike bell jingles and foghorn blows.
As Schmidt nears town, the FBI is called in to assist the local sheriff (Paul Weiner). Agent Hannigan (Beth West), who nabbed Schmidt originally, arrives to help catch the fugitive. Meanwhile, the doctor and his staff are busy mixing up trouble in scenes that are reminiscent of The Andromeda Strain and mid-20th Century educational films (Up Comes Oil, anyone?). One staff member is killed by a toxic sludge, which the doctor and his assistant Timmy (Timm Carney) pour into the sewer of a quiet suburban street. When the convict is chased into the sewer, he ends up cornered in a vat of this sludge that eats away, killing him... or so we're led to believe.
Hannigan, working with Sheriff Duncan and his two bungling deputies (Popko and D. West), now turn their attention to a new spate of shit-related murders, matching the deceased convict's M.O. Yes, my friends, the Shitman has come upon lovely Butte County, and it's up to our heroes to find a way to stop him before the big chili cook-off -- and the lavatory havoc it will create. You will learn what the Frankenstein-like creature fears most, and that he really only needs what everyone else needs -- love, attention and higher self-esteem.
In fact, the film takes a poignant turn at a beautifully scripted scene where Dr. Stern and his creation meet. After coming on big and bold with the doctor ("Who dares invade my underground lair?"), we see that he's just a small, scared Shitboy inside ("I look like shit. I smell like shit. I feel like shit."). At that moment, the audience can empathize with the Shitman without the aid of some cripple like that hack Mary W. Shelley had to throw in. Perhaps all the creature needs is to get over his abandonment issues... or not. In the end, the shit hits the fan (not literally, folks... you'll have to wait for Monsturd II for that).
The acting in Monsturd is not bad, but a few moments shine through. Three that stand out are when Deputy Rick previews his anti-drug speech with a hippie ventriloquist dummy; when the monster fishes for drunks with a half-empty beer can tied to a string; and when the deputies inform the community of the Shitman threat. Mark Pirro (the god that created A Polish Vampire in Burbank and Nudist Colony of the Dead) makes a heart-warming cameo appearance as a police sketch artist.
As for the production and the lighting, they are, for what it's worth, pretty special... and not in a retard kind of way. On a three thousand dollar budget (sans equipment cost), Popko and West produce some spectacular visual effects that, at a glance, look like real film (thanks to some fancy videography). The lighting effects in some scenes bring to mind Tenebrae and The Exorcist.
By far, though, the star of the show is the score, which is a feat comparable to Goblin's score for Suspiria; granted that they're different styles, they both nevertheless set a mood that brings a good movie into greatness.
Monsturd is a film for the ages. Not since Fanny and Alexander has a movie of this caliber and magnitude hit the screen. At times it makes you wish you had something of high caliber and magnitude in your locked desk drawer. Monsturd kicks almost all other horror movies on their fat, bloody asses. You'll never use your toilet again.
Editor's note: Last I heard from the producers, this movie was available at Blockbuster.