If you think a movie with a poster like the one on the left - utilizing phrases like "dangerous vixens" and "ancient evil" and "blood bath" and a picture of a smoking punk gal on the hood of a car and Grindhouse-esque cast photos - sounds like fun, you'll probably have fun with El Monstro Del Mar.
Three ladies who enjoy tattoos, small outfits, and killing make their way to a relatively secluded spot on the Australian coast, where their attempts to relax and have fun are abruptly interrupted by a series of harsh warnings from an old man and, eventually, a terror from the sea. These bad-to-the-bone women do not back away from a challenge, and - along with a prim and proper local teenager who they aim to corrupt - they end up fighting for survival against a tentacled monstro.
And that's really about it. I could try to dig into subplots about the characters' sexualities and the relationship between 17 year old Hannah and the three buxom bastardettes, but to do so would miss the point of the quick little film by director Stuart Simpson. Yes, there's an obvious commentary about these three women, who spend the first two acts partying, drinking, and snorting after offing two men in the stylish opening scene. That opening is a really cool sequence that goes from black-and-white - surely meant to invoke memories of beach party films of the 1950s - to color as the violence begins. The plot and dialogue similarities to classic horror/sci-fi end pretty quickly (I can't remember any swamp creature movies of that era in which characters were called homosexual slurs or had as many tattoos as a modern NBA team), but the tone of the film stays in tune with horror films of the past.
The film continues to be slightly derivative in the scenes when the monster does show up, which are reminiscent of the gore you'd see in low budget films of the early '80s. The creature work is very raw but it's effective and makes for a pretty manic finale. Fans of films like the ones Roger Corman produced at that time - Humanoids from the Deep is the easy comparison - will feel right at home with this creature, which mixes low-budget practical effects with what appears to be a touch of CGI. The effects are probably the best the budget could manage, and there's at least one gory moment late in the film - you'll know it when you see it - that is a top notch horror film "money shot".
At just over 70 minutes, Simpson doesn't waste too much time building characters or adding subplots - but I'm not sure that's necessary at all here. All of the main cast members do their jobs well, which is especially impressive when I learned that all four of the female leads - Nelli Scarlet, Karli Madden, Kate Watts and Kyrie Capri - have this film as their first professional credit. Each of the girls seem at home in the film, and play well off of the more seasoned Norman Yemm, an old man who does a good job as the film's "Crazy Ralph".
I didn't really need to say anything I did in the last few paragraphs - I suppose it was nice of me to confirm the details of the film - because I summed El Monstro Del Mar up perfectly in the first sentence of this review. It's a lot of fun. It's not high art, it won't be mistaken for a Hollywood production, and it's barely long enough to even be called a movie - but it's exactly what the advertising says it is. If you're looking for a deeply terrifying film or a horror movie that comments on life or society or anything else you probably aren't looking for El Monstro Del Mar. If you want to sit back and grin at a silly bit of carnage for just over an hour, then you'll probably have just as much fun as I did - if not more - with El Monstro Del Mar.