11th Oct2023

Dead Northern 2023: ‘How To Kill Monsters’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Lyndsey Craine, Johnny Vivash, Ayvianna Snow, Fenfen Huang, Juné Tiamatakorn, Michaela Longden, Arron Dennis, Daniel Thrace | Written by Paul Butler | Directed by Stewart Sparke

Well that’s it! We can officially close the book on my number one movie of 2023 because I finally got to see How to Kill Monsters and it’s an absolute belter.

Admittedly I was an adoring fan of Book of Monsters and I do think Lyndsey Craine is a bonafide yet hugely underrated superstar scream queen female lead. Then you throw in a smorgasbord of who’s who in the genre and a metric ton of gore, blood and guts. Safe to say I have been excited for this practical effects-driven low-budget Lovecraftian horror, sci-fi, comedy from director Stewart Sparke and his team at Dark Rift Horror.

How to Kill Monsters starts much the same as many other movies of its ilk… at the end… that’s right, in our cold open we join the action at its climax, we are at a cabin and there seems to have been some sort of crazy blood bath mass murder situation. We meet Jamie (Craine), a lone survivor wielding a chainsaw. The police have arrived and understandably they arrest Jamie, put her in the car and drive off as a local news crew reports on the incident and takes us to the end credits.

Of course, this is just the fun cold open and we do fade back in from black to begin our movie. The movie about the movie we just caught the end of. I loved this opener because it put me in mind of watching films back in the days of VHS. Anyway, from here Jamie is taken to the local police station for interrogation by none other than Johnny Vivash (if you know, you know). They don’t believe her on account of her story being totally insane – the idea that Jamie has partaken in some cult-y Cthulhu monster summoning scenario led by the one and only Ayvianna Snow (again, if you know, you know) and it went pretty much the way you might expect.

Meanwhile our resident double-act police officers are inspecting an artefact found in the cabin (because of course they are) and inadvertently activate it. Now Jamie is in another fight for her life but this time she is joined by a group of drunk ass women on a hen party, a creep in the cell across the room, her cellmate Big Jenny and a host of hapless officers as they give us Assault on Precinct 13 with monsters, blood, laughs, chainsaws and a delightful Stewart Sparke twist. Will they survive the night? Who knows, but I can guarantee that it’s gonna be bloody fun finding out.

As with Book of Monsters, this spiritual sequel plays on Sparke and writer Paul Butler’s biggest strengths. One of which is not being afraid to throw it all at the wall and running with the concept. A wicked smart and funny script, often taking influence and reconditioning rather than imitating. There are many plot points or scene beats that you will no doubt get the reference to and yet still be a touch surprised with the direction it goes. As always casting is key, we know Craine is going to smash it out of the park because, well she always does. This is an actress that gets it, completely, and is able to command the screen every frame she is in and clearly doesn’t mind having blood thrown at her either!

Our hen party consists of Fenfen Huang as Blair, our Bride-to-be; Juné Tiamatakorn is Ruth, our shy computer nerd who turns into a bit of a scene-stealing badass. Then there is Michaela Longden as Chelsea, the main bitch of the group; we are fans of Michaela around these parts and it’s always great to see her on-screen, especially in a role she can have fun with and deliver another solid performance.

Our “Sun Hill” bobbies on the beat partnership is Arron Dennis and Daniel Thrace as Dennis and Melvin respectively. Who have such great chemistry together that they kind of become the metaphorical heart of the flick, at times allowing us (the audience) to take a moment.

I’m a huge fan of what the Dark Rift clan are doing and so far they have not missed a beat. Stewart Sparke is ridiculously grounded in his absurd creations, using practical effects to the max and achieving not just awesome-looking monsters but bloody gorgeous sexy deaths. You can feel a deep-rooted passion for 80s and 90s horror shine through, with the glorious score that is just on point, I mean come on, the newsreader at the beginning with the music over top is as good a reference to Scream as I have ever seen (and I bloody loved it).

British-made horror is having a real resurgence right now and with people like Sparke and Craine to carry that flag, well it’s in good hands. It never feels like they are making movies to be massive, but more like they are making movies because they are passionate about their art – this really is “by fans for fans.” And they’re doing it at this level, in this genre, with these budgets! That makes you the gold standard in my book and with more additions to the “MonsterVerse” including a video game and possible comics… Well my friends, bring them all on.

***** 5/5

How to Kill Monsters screened as part of this year’s Dead Northern Film Festival.


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