El Monstro del Mar! (2010)
Written and directed by Stuart Simpson
Starring Nelli Scarlet, Kyrie Capri, and Norman Yemm
Following a bloody heist, three bad girls hide from the law in a tiny fishing village. There they clash with a wheelchair-bound old man, who is raising his teenage granddaughter with no visible means of support. It sounds like the premise of a Russ Meyer homage, and apart from the titular monster that’s pretty much what the film delivers.
The majority of the film deals with the interactions between the women in hiding, led by Beretta (Nelli Scarlet), and the sheltered Hannah (Kyrie Capri). It’s an awkward relationship from the start. The criminals view Hannah as a naive yokel to toy with, while she sees them as intriguing but reckless. After one drunken night together, Hannah has had enough to know that their life is not for her, yet neither was her own. For Hannah then the story is about growing into her own person. For Beretta it becomes about revenge.
This is a monster movie, so while all the human drama transpires along the shore a sort of giant squid emerges from the deeps. The fishermen of the small community are wiped out over the course of a night and a day, and one of Beretta’s gang falls victim as well. Before you can say “tell us what’s in the water” it’s women versus cephalopod. The monster has snapping jaws on its tentacles. The women have whatever they can find in a fishing shack.
I had a lot of fun with one. I’ve seen El Monstro del Mar! three times now, and I like it a little more with each viewing. Of course, I am pretty much its target audience; being a fan of monster flicks, practical effects, and cheesy sleaze. There’s a lot of leering camera angles, homoeroticism, and other PG titillation you’d get in the average Katy Perry video. The lighting and makeup are less flattering, however, giving a raw low-budget feel that makes everything look dirty and used.
The creature effects range from pretty admirable to endearingly silly. The exterior shots of the monster mounted atop the fishing shack is hilarious, in a good (and hopefully intentional) way. The majority of what is shown of the monster are its tentacles. It’s a wise choice, and the small array of credited puppeteers shows the filmmakers were committed to making it work for them. Indeed, the seemingly endless tentacles make the finale a thrilling, non-stop struggle. It’s a hell of a finish, and the fight itself wraps up all of the plot threads.
When a monster movie remembers to tell a solid story in between killings, it makes it a lot more enjoyable to wait around for the full reveal of the monster. It doesn’t take a lot to give characters purpose and conflict, but so often all we’re given is the same handful of kids looking to party, whose only conflict is (to quote the porn version of Hamlet) “to fuck or not to fuck”. Centering the story on a young woman befriending a trio of killers gives El Monstro… a light cake for its monster frosting to cover. But more appetizing than that sounds. Squid frosting… just, no.