Villains 2019 Monster Party 2018 film posters

Villains & Monster Party Double Feature Review

Why I took them off the list: Normally, I’d do a Double Feature review of romantic comedies/dramas for Valentine’s Day.

But this year I decided to go with a little rogue Valentine’s counterprogramming and review some comedy/horror (likely the last DF, as a big format change is coming to the site!).

I’d had Villains on my list for a while, as the trailer indicated that it could be a fun horror/comedy. Also, the cast is fantastic, boasting the likes of It Follows star Maika Monroe (who is returning for the long-awaited sequel, yay!) and Bill ‘Pennywise’ Skarsgård.

When I realized that a horror/comedy with an almost identical-sounding plot was released the previous year, I decided to make it a Double Feature and see how they compared. So let’s dig in!

Review of Villains (2019)

Villains begins with a typical scene from any crime thriller: a young couple on the lam barge into a gas station and attempt to rob the place.

But the fact that they are decked out in ridiculous animal masks and exchanging loved-up banter makes it clear that this is a comically heightened world, which informs the way the rest of the movie unfolds.

The couple’s getaway attempt is soon foiled when they run out of gas and are forced to steal a car from a nearby suburban house. But as they ransack the perfectly put-together place, they uncover some surprising secrets, leading to an awkward confrontation with the homeowners when they unexpectedly return.

Villains deals with some dark plot developments and eventually goes to some pretty twisted places. But the sense of absurdity and the tendency towards dark comedy in the writing means that it is ultimately more entertaining than harrowing.

Perfectly Performed by a Very Game Cast

That Villains is as much fun as it turns out to be is largely down to the perfectly pitched performances from the core quartet of actors.

Monroe and Skarsgård are alternately hilarious and adorable as would-be criminals who are out of their depth. They succeed in making characters who are unappealing on the surface likable and easy to root for.

Jeffery Donovan exudes both charm and menace as the man of the house. Some of the best scenes involve him matching wits with the intruders and often coming out firmly on top.

And, perhaps best of all, Kyra Sedgwick is a hoot to watch as a delusional faded southern belle. It frequently feels like she’s just wandered in from a particularly deranged Tennessee Williams play, and gets a hell of a twisted seduction scene to play with.

Writer/directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen also deserve a lot of credit, as Villains remains both funny and tense throughout. You’ve never quite sure which of the equally devious pairs of players is going to prevail in this situation, and the suspense is upheld pretty much until the end.

Total score: 7/10

Villains (2019): Worth Watching?

Yes, Villains is a highly entertaining face-off between 4 twisted characters, with fun performances and considerable tension throughout.

Review of Monster Party (2018)

This satirical thriller was released a year earlier than Villians and has almost exactly the same premise: a gang of thieves break into the house of some upper-class folks hiding some nasty secrets.

There are some differences: the gang is made up of 3 here, the house is substantially larger (a huge Malibu mansion, in fact), and there are way more dangerous residents to deal with. However, Monster Party is a pretty good example of why bigger is not always better.

The smart script that Villains boasted is largely lacking here, as is the character development. Monster Party is definitely more gory, and splatter fans will probably be more interested in it than the previous film’s more character-driven thrills. But it’s also more mean-spirited and lacks compelling leads to root for.

Some Great Actors Let Down by Mediocre Execution

The best thing Monster Party has going for it is the presence of the late Lance Reddick, Erin Moriarty (Starlight in The Boys), and Robin Tunney (The Craft) in the cast. These charismatic performers have proven that they can light up even the most mediocre material, and they do it once again here.

Reddick is always effective in menacing mode, and he brings significant gravitas to his threatening words here. Tunney is good at acting peppy but showing the brittle fragility lurking underneath, and Moriarty brings her steely charm to a character who could just be a cipher in another’s hands.

All the other cast members fail to make much of an impression, mostly because their characters come across as thinly written and one-note (either uncomplicated psychopaths or desperate innocents).

There are some surprising kills and random shocks that give a bit of a jolt. But it feels like the solid premise (a secret group of recovering serial killers tempted back into action) is mostly squandered.

The staging of the action looks kinda cheap and uninventive. There are some beautiful outdoor shots of the impressive Malibu mansion and its grounds, to be sure, but most of the scenes in the house look flat and unappealing. And the ending feels a bit random and unsatisfying.

Total score: 5/10

Monster Party (2018): Worth Watching?

If you’re in the mood for an undemanding slasher movie, then yes. Monster Party suffers from a thinly stretched cast and an unimaginative execution of a promising premise. However, a couple of the performances and some surprising kills make it an OK watch.

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