www.crankedoncinema.com/thegreenmonsterreview

Review by: Jamie Lisk

Approximate running time: 90 minutes

Directors: Nolan Ball, Bryan Roberts
Writer: Trevor Wright
Cinematographers: Nolan Ball, Bryan Roberts
Cast: Edward X. Young, Colleen Cohan, Phoebe French, Beatrice Strobl, Bethany Taylor, Megan Sacco, Kachina Dechert, Nathaniel Sylva, Andrew Cordio, Bryan Lombardo, Marv Blauvelt, Jessica French, Mark Debenedictis, Heather Wright, Bob Roy, Bill Jacques, Claire Taylor, Trevor R. Ruggles, Ryan Kobus, Mikayla Roberts, Bre Niebel , Martha Roberts, Emery Ball, Maryanne Fitzmaurice, Joseph Fitzmaurice, Steve Hebert, Stefano Trafecante, Stewart Dasco, Syed Budli Naqvi, Jim Kilbride, Paige Lucchesi, Ryan Buttie, Victor Navedo

The Green Monster feels like an amalgam of 70s era hicksploitation movies and 80s era teen slasher film with a little W. W. Jacobs' Monkey's Paw thrown in for good measure. At times, the film is confusing and seems unable (or unwilling) to arrive at a solid tone, probably a by-product of the filmmakers efforts to include too many ideas into too short a film. We got too many eggs in one basket, in a sense. Had the filmmakers elected to stick with a simple horror story (not comedy-horror), the whole experience might have come off as something great, instead the film feels flawed and, well, irresolutely strange.

After a shockingly downbeat opening sequence in which a girl (Phoebe French) gives birth to, and subsequently murders, her baby in the restroom of a convenience store, we are introduced to the owners of said convenience store. They are Gerald (Edward X. Young) and Molly (Colleen Cohan), both transplants from the Deep South, who - we quickly discover - are trained in the power of black magic thanks to Molly's daddy. The Green Monster of the title, on the surface, appears to be nothing more than the dumpster out back of Gerald and Molly's store, but as we soon learn, it's also a metaphor for the urban decay that Gerald and Molly found waiting for them when they set up shop in the city. It's the place where used condoms and needles are discarded nightly... and it's also the place where they found so many dead babies, including the one tossed away so nonchalantly in the opening scene. For Gerald and Molly, it got to be too much and, in time, they decided to take matters into their hands in an effort to clean up some of that rot festering around them.

This is the basis for the film, a couple so determined to fix things that they themselves become twisted by it. For Gerald, it means devising new and ironic ways to rid himself of the undesirables in his midst. Sadly, he is hampered by his inability to keep it in his pants... and his surprising lust for more corpses to fill the Green Monster out back. His wife, Molly, isn't exactly happy with the situation, especially in the fact that her husband is looking for sex from everyone else but her. She's also none-too jazzed about the fact that Gerald is using daddy's voodoo-teachings in ways he shouldn't be, which, due to his carelessness, has brought various folks snooping around their store looking for some information regarding some missing people among other things.

This is where the film kicks into its curious subplot (or subplots) involving three highschool girls, all strands of which lead back to the convenience store and, of course, The Green Monster. They don't make much sense, but, yeah, that's where they lead. For me, the three girls represent the unrealized ideas of the film of which I mentioned. The first girl, Brea (Beatrice Strobl), is an apparent druggie looking for a way to stay young and beautiful. She finds the answer at Gerald's store. See, in the wee hours of the night, Gerald can usually be found in his basement carving up bodies for his special brand of candies -- candies that, when ingested, give the chewer a euphoric feeling, as well, it also pretties up the exterior. For Brea, those blood-filled candies seem to do the trick, sadly, unbeknownst to her, with every candy consumed and outward flaw smudged, her interior grows more and more uglier and her dependence grows more profound. Her two friends, Leah (Bethany Taylor) and Del (Kachina Dechert), sense this right away, but they just chalk it up to hormones or whatever. Considering that her friends are oblivious to the fact that Brea is buddy buddy with some bad ass, murdering drug dealers, I guess they might miss a few things here and there. Following a visit to Gerald's store and the subsequent murder of her parents, Brea suddenly goes missing... just another in a long line of missing people in the area (remember the bodies Gerald's carving up in the wee hours in the morning -- yeah, you get the point). Cues to "Friday the 13th 4", as another person arrives in town on the trail of a missing person. His name is Tyler (Nathaniel Sylva) and he's looking for his sister -- the reluctant mommy from the first scene. Coincidentally he just moved in beside Leah and, following a ride to school, the two are quickly Scooby Doing it all over town, on a hunt for their missing friends. Some diligent detective work takes them back to Gerald's store and thus begins our descent into the film's quirky, unsatisfying and shockingly gruesome conclusion.

Leah and Tyler's story -- the search for the missing friends and their burgeoning love affair - had the most potential but, for whatever reason, the filmmakers elect to sacrifice Leah in favour of that Monkey's Paw twist I mentioned. With Leah out of the frame, literally, the focus suddenly shifts to Del, who, up to this point in the film, has been nothing but a background character -- and someone we don't really care about, unlike Leah, who we we've grown to sympathize with. I'm not entirely sure why the filmmakers chose to off her character in favour of another less developed one. The only thing it accomplishes is that it helps to muck things up. It forces the viewer to hastily get behind someone they don't really give a shit about. When the ending arrives, in typical gory fashion, we are less inclined to care about the outcome because of it. Yeah, she's Brea's friend, she's hot, she dances a lot and kids pick on her, who gives a shit? At least that's how I felt. Even Tyler's quest and subsequent revenge scenario seems rushed, as if the filmmakers had completely run out of cash and were making a mad dash to the finish line. A sub subplot involving drug dealers, while upping the gore quota, feels totally contrived, silly and in my opinion, could have been left out entirely.

When the two leads represent the comic relief, you know you're gonna run into problems. Listening to Molly and Gerald cracking one liners and making bizarre, comedy-laced observations left me cringing. This attempt to infuse comedy into a film that isn't the least bit funny, left me wondering what the filmmakers had in mind. Let's talk about the pre-credit sequence, for a minute. I mean, they open their film with a woman killing a baby in a bathroom, and follow it up with one of the most intense and disturbing car ride dialogue exchanges in my memory, only to end it all with a pair cracking jokes over a dumpster. Wuh. Why? Yes, I understand that this was a black comedy, but I for one would have been happy with just the black.

While I wasn't entirely ecstatic with the film, I did enjoy some of the performances. Edward X. Young and Colleen Cohan as psychotic-to-the-point-of-savage Southerners were a treat. Their jokes came off as corny, yes, but they did play off each other rather well. At times, it almost felt as though they were brother and sister as opposed to a married couple. Hints, I wonder, of "Motel Hell" and Calhoun and Parsons' bizarre relationship. Phoebe French is another actress who could probably break out if she chose to. The tortured moment in the bathroom and the follow-up back and forth awkward dialogue with Young's character in the car, it was all just fantastic. Plus, she's cute to boot.

For the gore, there was less reliance on CGI than most films today and I was grateful for sure. Edward X. Young, Nikki Coleman, Stephen R. Hicks and David Szehi, the effects team behind the film, get back to basics here with realistic looking props and plenty of syrup.

In the end, I think Nolan, Bryan and Trevor had their hearts in the right place. I think they were honestly attemtping to recreate the atmosphere of some of those 80's films that many of us grew up watching, namely "Motel Hell" and "The Night Andy Came Home", Sadly, the end result is one of too much. And a poor attempt at comedy left me feeling... well.. unsatisfied.