Sophie reading from the titular book

I adore independent film, escaping the usual clichés that are all too common in Hollywood. Consequently, small, independent companies are a good way to experience a fresh take on film making and storytelling. One such company is Dark Rift Films, founded by Paul Butler and Stewart Sparke in 2015. Starting out with the short films such as Containment, Rats  and Frostbite before branching out into feature length films with Creature Below (2016).  Embracing the spirit of independent cinema, I was excited to get a chance to check out their latest production Book of Monsters.

Hand drawn 80'sstle film poster

WHAT IS IT? 

The story is based around Sophie, whose party for her 18th birthday is cut short cut short after a ritual sacrifice takes place and summons a host of creatures to attack the party and kill its guests. It’s up to Sophie and her friends to fight back against this unknown horror,  to save her friends and uncover why the beasts are attacking. 

Ready and prepared for battle

WHAT DID I LIKE ABOUT THE FILM? 

The film is a homage to horror, with inspiration from great works such as Evil Dead 2 (1987), Braindead (1992), Aliens (1986) and is full of references to horror masters such as Dario Argento and  H.P Lovecraft,  while simultaneously creating its own sense of identity instead of feeling like a re-hash of tired concepts.

The leads of the film gave good performances throughout, creating a believable bond of friendship between them. Consequently, the characters are actually likeable, for once, in a genre that often struggles to make engaging characters. 

With a budget of only £75,000, it shows that a multi-million budget isn’t needed to create an exceptional film. With excellent practical special effects that stand out with good blood work and amazing creature design, the film will look just as good in 10 years’ time, unlike similar films released at the same time that are reliant on CG effects. 

The film looks stylish with great cinematography varying in style, reliant on the situation and tone of the story. Using tight, frantic shots of the monsters works well for their design, showing just enough to see the horrifying designs but not showing them off too much. In addition, the film is accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack that can give a sense of either foreboding or suspense. 

Behind the scenes shot

Starting life as a crowd funded project, the crew gave backers the opportunity to vote on the final character designs of the monsters used in the film, giving the people who help fund the film have some sort of creative hand in the final product.  This certainly interjects a fun sense of community that is reflective in the end product of the film.

However, the real star of the film is the titular book of monsters, looking like a real century’s old grimoire being passed down generation to generation collecting the knowledge that forms this bestiary. With fascinating, hand drawn illustrations of what could be hundreds of different monsters, all with unique notes scribbled on the pages like a used field journal, painting a picture of the world the characters live in. It is a really impressive prop that gives the movie a real sense of lore.

Titular book of monsters

WHAT DIDN’T I LIKE ABOUT THE FILM? 

There really isn’t a lot that I didn’t like about the film but there were a few things I noticed. Some of the extras did not give the best performances, with some of their line delivery feeling a bit too much and their reactions to the scenes around them were underwhelming, with some of the character’s actions being completely unnecessary other than it being their only quality (I’m looking at you, Brice). Thankfully,  these characters are not in the movie for more than 15 minutes and are mostly cannon fodder so they never take away from its quality. 

Though it never felt rushed, I wished the movie was slightly longer than its 84-minute runtime. I really wanted to experience more of the lore that the writers have used to create this world of monsters and experience more screen time of the book itself. 

Reaction shots of actors

WHERE CAN I FIND IT 

The film is available as a standard edition Blu-ray and as a limited collector’s edition Blu-ray/DVD combo. The limited collector’s edition contains both a Blu-ray and DVD of the film, with a reversible Blu-ray covered, both sides signed by the lead actress Lyndsey Crane and director/editor Stewart Sparkle and a numbered case sleeve.  An A4 poster of the amazing box art designed by The Dude Designs, also signed by Lyndsey and Stewart and four A5 lobby cards of the main characters from the movie. This is a very limited run of only 300 copies but is regularly available in its standard edition. Both these and many more items are available from Dark Rift Films website. 

Limited collectors edition slip cover

OVERALL THOUGHTS 

I can’t deny that I love this film, with its deep lore of horror and being genuinely funny, Book of Monsters has created its own identity as a mix of slasher movies, creature-features, body horror and dark comedy. It is something fresh in the somewhat stale scene of low budget independent horrors trying to rely on exploitation. 

With a vast number of monsters that could be introduced and a group of likeable characters, I hope to hear of talks of a sequel in the future. Further expanding on the vast horror lore throughout the world, there is an endless torrent of possibilities of what direction the story can progress. 

If you’re a fan of monster movies then Book of Monsters will be a gore-soaked indie gem that will hit the spot. 

 

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