Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Monster in the Closet
Monster in The Closet
“Bear with me and throw all reason out of the window”
Jarv’s Rating: 2.5 Changs out of 4
Thank the lord for Troma. Seriously, I know that sounds like a daft thing to say, but I’ve seen an awful lot of absolute rubbish recently and to return to the warm and cuddly embrace of the kings of schlock is a wonderful relief- they’re people that don’t deliberately make “bad” films, they do it by accident because they lack the actual ability to make good films. Nonetheless, they always make entertaining films.
Yet, and this is always an interesting point for me, the 80’s Troma oeuvre had a sly intelligence at work. Even at their most catastrophically stupid (like The Toxic Avenger) there’s a subtle element of parody happening. This film is exactly the same- it’s ostensibly a monster movie, but is actually a cack handed social satire, a glorious pastiche of monster flicks and a reasonably intelligent social commentary.
It’s also, and this is astounding for Troma, got a good cast of solid professionals. There are a few hilarious cameos to be spotted (that I’ll point out later) but other than that it’s competently acted by proper character actors. The script, admittedly, isn’t up to much and the design borders on shoddy, but overall this is a most un-Tromalike film.
To explain the plot of this film is pretty easy. It’s about a monster that lives in the closet of a northern Californian town that kills people for no apparent reason- including nailing a dog to the door, a child and a blind man. A group of survivors and the US army attempt to kill it, but it turns out the monster is indestructible. After attempt number 7 on the monsters life, it falls in love with the male reporter and takes him off to San Francisco. However, the Doctor has twigged that the only way to kill the monster is to destroy all closets- which the natives of San Francisco seem to enjoy. The monster dies of exposure.
What’s good about this film? Well, it’s Troma, so is, to put it gently, superficially catastrophically dumb. The elderly professor character attempts to communicate with the monster using only a xylophone and a Close Encounters lite series of notes. This leads to an immensely dumb moment watching an Einstein resembling old man play a xylophone with a goofy grin plastered across his face while a possibly homosexual monster mewls in response. However, the old man clearly didn’t think out his communication properly, and (in my opinion) in his sequence of notes clearly called the monster a cunt, so vengeance is swift and terrible.
Most of the time, Troma films are just stupid, but this one is attempting to be something more. The film is laced through with references to the other films even finishing with the infamous beauty killed the beast line from King Kong. For example, our intrepid journalist hero is a good-looking beefcake with thick glasses called “Clarke” that works for a paper called “The Daily Globe”. Familiar? If not then there’s a shower scene (that’s a bit unfunny to be honest and goes on far too long) that rips straight from Psycho. Or how about when the soundtrack plays sections of Tubular Bells? It’s a not a smart arsed spoof like Scary Movie, rather it’s a properly designed pastiche that references other work without the reference being the end in itself.
The monster himself is blatantly rubber. He also looks like a big brown sack of shit. You really have to work harder than this to impress me. However, as much as the design of the monster is lacking, he has got a character most unexpected- he loves the cock. I know this sounds like a bit of a joke, but at no stage in this film has there been the slightest indication that the monster is female. He may be, but given that he falls for Clarke when his glasses are removed and takes him to San Francisco where he dies because he’s unable to get back into the closet, it isn’t a huge leap of faith to assume that he’s a big gay monster. I don’t want to delve back into the murky world of mutant rubber sexuality, but I’m going to make the leap of faith that because he has a second head that pops out of an opening that may or may not be his mouth and is clearly meant to represent a penis- I’m going for him being male. His first kills are hilarious in themselves, in that he entices people into the closet and then they die in a flurry of clothes thrown backwards on to the floor. You don’t see them, and there isn’t anything resembling blood or gore.
The script contains the usual clangers, but is kind enough to throw in many a laugh out loud line to keep me happy- the “destroy all closets” scene I quoted above is an absolute pearler- especially as it then cuts to a strange montage of people destroying their closets. Watch out for the Japanese Samurai who takes his apart with a katana. Hilarious.
Now for the bad: Paul Walker and Fergie make their first appearances in this film. Fergie I forgive, because she dies pretty fast, but Walker is a main character. His acting in this film is dreadful, but even worse than that, this performance as a kid far outstrips every other performance he’s ever done- especially The Fast and The Furious. Maybe he got his penchant for homo-erotic garbage from being wrestled by two burly men in this film?
There’s also a fair amount of downright shoddiness in it. When the monster attempts to travel to the Transamerica building in San Francisco, he does it down a street that is blatantly not anywhere near San Francisco. I’m personally not sure about this, but Mrs. Jarv is from SF and swears blind that this is the case. It’s kind of indicative of the film as a whole, really, with continuity errors and gross incompetence mixing with intelligence and panache. For example, the xylophone scene mentioned earlier has a howling continuity blunder in it: after the monster finishes the Doctor off, the entire US army fire straight away with rocket launchers, grenades and all sorts of other ordinance. The old guy is lying next to the monster on the floor. I’m not an expert in explosives, but surely the old guy should be splattered all over Northern California? Instead, he’s not got a scratch.
Overall, would I recommend it? Yes. It’s an enjoyable little film that mixes moments of genius with moments of blatant stupidity. I like it and it comes as a very pleasant relief after some of the utter shit I’ve inflicted on myself recently.