Jack has anger management issues, for which he is undergoing rather unsuccessful psychotherapy. His problems stem from his childhood when his whole family was murdered during a camping trip by a horrifying monster. He tries to live a normal life as good as he can, he works as a plumber, and takes a chemistry class at College together with his cranky girlfriend Eve. One day after class, his chemistry Professor asks him if he can fix a water pipe in the old house that he just bought. While working at it, he accidentally awakens an ancient evil that has been buried in the yard many decades ago. Now he must face an army of demons in the present, while also fighting his own demons from the past.
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer showcases its campy attitude already in the title. And how can anyone come up with such a cliche-ridden plot and get away with it? Turns out director Jon Knautz and main actor/producer Trevor Matthews get away with it rather easily. This was their first full-length movie they released together, and since the several other good ones have followed. While the story is indeed composed of numerous tropes taken from 80s US horror movies, their execution displays the movie makers’ ability to replicate the vibe of genre classics such as Evil Dead and Night of the Creeps.
The movie is a relatively low-budget, but thoroughly professional production. Cinematography, set locations and acting quality are more than decent, and everything blends well together. There are only a handful of characters in the movie, and most of them display eccentric traits. They are not ridiculed, though, each of them is rather portrayed in a surprisingly compassionate way. Comic relief is also abundant, and the humor strikes a good balance between slapstick and tragicomedy. The suspense builds up fairly slowly, as for the first half we are mostly exposed to Jake’s futile attempts to deal with the world around him, rather than the horror plot, which really takes its time to get going. All personal drama is cheerfully dropped in the last 30 minutes, however, when Jack goes up against the demon horde. Similarly, the special effects are sparse in the first hour or so of the movie, but are fully utilized towards the end for some really nasty demon faces, a truly disgusting end boss, and lots of tentacles. Robert Englund is the only “big” name in the movie, and his portrayal of the slightly absent-minded, but friendly teacher fits well within the overall tone of the movie.
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer never tries to be more than a charming homage to US horror movies from the 80s. It convincingly succeeds in this attempt, though, and we are rewarded with 90 minutes of uncomplicated and charming entertainment.