“It’s just a book. No harm ever came from reading a book.”
Rachel Weisz’s charming naivety about a book from 1999’s The Mummy has been disproven countless times throughout horror history. Can we even scratch the surface of all the awful atrocities unleashed by evil books over the years? The aforementioned The Mummy, The Evil Dead films and The Babadook, just to name a few. Now, we can add The Creature Below’s Stewart Sparke’s sensational Book of Monsters (2018) to that long, illustrious list.
Book of Monsters opens with a young girl named Sophie sneaking into her mother’s room and grabbing a mysterious book. You know the kind, pentagram on the cover, looks menacing… What could possibly go wrong? Her mother catches her reading the book by flashlight, warning her she’s too young to be looking at something so scary before bed. But Sophie protests, so mom agrees to read one story before lights out, and then kisses her goodnight. But as she’s leaving the room, she hears something lurking under Sophie’s bed. I hate to spoil things, but this is horror, so the monsters under your bed can be real.
Fast forward to the present, and Sophie (Lyndsey Craine: The Creature Below 2016) is on the eve of celebrating her 18th birthday. Her best friends, Beth (Lizzie Stanton AKA Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton) and Mona (Michaela Longden: Audex 2014), are planning a massive soirée to celebrate this momentous occasion. Sophie is just expecting a small gathering with friends, but she gets way more than she bargained for. Among those in attendance are Sophie’s crush, Jess (Rose Muirhead: Sex, Lattes & Hideous Dates 2019), her most contentious rival, Arya (Anna Dawson: The Creature Below 2016), and even a male stripper. We also have the peculiar Pandora (Steph Mossman: King Lear 2018), who seems to have an agenda beyond enjoying the party.
This mysterious redhead sneaks off to Sophie’s room with the most virginal guy she can find (there’s one at every party, right?), and just happens to stumble on the nefarious book from Sophie’s childhood. Her father, Jonas (the iconic Nicholas Vince: Hellraiser franchise, Nightbreed 1990), had gifted it to her earlier that night, saying her mother would have wanted her to have it. We have a virgin, and we have a malicious tome… you can probably see where this is headed. After carrying out an unholy ritual from the book, Sophie’s bash is about to be invaded by the most devilish party crashers imaginable. Will Sophie and her friends live long enough to see her turn the big 1-8?
Book of Monsters is a total blast of creature feature throwback bliss! Imagine a full throttle collision between Evil Dead and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. It’s a raucous, riotous, and bloody fun horror comedy! It doesn’t take long for the body count to rise, and the blood splatters quite generously. It was particularly fun watching Lyndsey Craine as Sophie. The metamorphosis her character goes through from quiet, unassuming school girl into take-charge, fierce badass is beautiful to behold. All three of the main female leads experience similar growth, but I found Sophie’s to be most dramatic.
The gore is plentiful, and I love that most of the effects work is practical, although the creature FX can be a little unconvincing at times. It can be hard to sell a rubber suit as anything else, but I appreciate that they didn’t CGI the shit out of things. The monsters are very imaginative, with everything from a shapeshifter to killer garden gnomes. This film was obviously made with tons of passion and a great love for the monster movies of the ’80s. Book of Monsters is packed with hearty chuckles and bountiful bloodshed, satiating the ravenous Dead Alive lovers in us all!
Book of Monsters is a fantastic, blood-drenched throwback to the great creature features of the past… an eruption of laughs and gore to feast your eyeballs upon! It’s a magnificent addition to the on-fire Dread (previously Dread Central Presents) label lineup, joining the likes of Terrifier (read our review here), Extremity (read our review here), and Slay Belles (read our review here), and it’s absolutely on par with any of those killer titles!
I also have to heartily recommend director Stewart Sparke’s 2016 film, The Creature Below, a spectacular piece of Lovecraftian horror that went sorely unnoticed, and that features a lot of the returning cast for Book of Monsters (Craine, Dawson, Longden, and writer Paul Butler feature prominently in both). In a world taking itself way too seriously, Book of Monsters is a brilliantly bloody and welcome injection of fun that I highly recommend! This book deserves to be topping the bestsellers list.