When she was eight years old it was Sophie’s favourite bedtime reading despite her mother’s warnings that it would give her nightmares, the Book of Monsters, hand-written and illustrated, bound in heavy black embossed leather, the tales of how the monsters could be defeated. But not all stories have happy endings and when her mother was murdered, Sophie claiming it was the monster under the bed, it was understandably difficult to believe.
Ten years later, it is the eve of Sophie’s eighteenth birthday, her father doing his awkward best to ensure she enjoys herself in what he quaintly pictures as a quiet night with her friends Mona and Beth but they have other plans, having invited half the school year; with Sophie far from popular girl its uncertain who will show but as the revellers finally arrive the drink begins to flow, followed by the blood.
A Kickstarter funded creature feature of untamed excess, what Book of Monsters lacks in budget and subtlety it makes up for in exuberance, writer Paul Butler and director Stewart Sparkle ensuring that every opportunity is taken to throw characters in the path of rampaging denizens of the underworld and splatter the screaming onlookers in entrails as they are gleefully dismembered.
The chaos precipitated by a shapeshifting skin-stealing demon intent on virginal human sacrifice masquerading as a party-crashing girl dressed in red, the realised contents of the Book of Monsters vary between surprisingly good to Hallowe’en costumes – though the antlers on one manifestation make it resemble an angry Christmas decoration – but with the aim to entertain anything goes.
Led by Lyndsey Craine, Michaela Longden and Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton as Sophie, resourceful Mona and quiet Beth, aided and hindered by Rose Muirhead, Daniel Thrace and Anna Dawson as the snooty class bitch who commands others to enact her petty schemes, the acting is variable but no worse than has been seen in productions which would consider themselves more professionally finished than this.
The girls taking charge and banding together to defend the farmhouse, Book of Monsters is shamelessly silly and never pretends otherwise, occasionally lacking sufficient sense of urgency in the lulls between attacks but carried by the ambition and inventiveness of the design of the creatures and the titular volume itself, perhaps the real star of the film.