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Stomp! Shout! Scream!
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by brianorndorf

"Skunk Ape is coming"
2 stars

In a day and age when so many filmmakers lean on camp to pay tribute to the monster movies of old, “Monster Beach Party A-Go-Go” plays surprisingly straight. A valentine to the creature features of the 1960s, the film has an unexpectedly low-key presence, content to tinker with a few traditions and tug at some goofy genre habits, but refuses to squeal, accepting the challenge of recreating beach party horror with refreshing semi-seriousness.

Theodora (Claire Robinson), Carol (Mary Kraft), and Jody (Cynthia Evans) make up The Violas, an all-girl garage band touring the Southeast beach circuit as they work toward stardom. When their car breaks down in a rural town, the ladies are forced to spend the night, desperate to make their way to a crucial Florida gig. However, a stalled car is the least of their worries when local cops and scientist John (Jonathan Green) discover the presence of the mysterious Skunk Ape, a hairy terror who’s already killed a few innocent beachgoers, stalking the night on the hunt for more victims.

“Monster Beach Party” (originally titled “Stomp! Shout! Scream!” and shot in 2004) is a modest production patterned from the likes of “The Horror of Party Beach” and similar pictures that married the sweet sounds of low-fi rock and the cheesiness of absurd monsters. Writer/director Jay Wade Edwards demonstrates a clear love for the genre, fashioning his own spin on amateur theatrics, providing more of a retro roll than outright mockery. The fact that “Monster Beach Party” avoids absolute camp is remarkable, gifting the film a few pleasures it wouldn’t otherwise own if Edwards decided to crack up the winky outrageousness. While still steeped in genre satire, the picture plays kindly, enjoying the moment.

While gentle, “Monster Beach Party” isn’t very funny, also having difficulty finding some actual plot to develop. Once the characters are positioned, there’s an extraordinary amount of exposition and tepid character beats, weakening the pace of the picture. The performances are comfortably retro and easygoing enough, yet there’s not much tension, comedic or romantic, with Edwards unable to pump oxygen into the script. And the Skunk Ape business is more tell then show, with the man-in-suit monkey business reserved for the final 10 minutes of the movie, and even then it never pays off as it should. Edwards has a fun idea that barely bursts forth, and his command of comic violence leave much to be desired.

A highlight of the film is the music, with band Catfight! stepping in to provide The Violas with their requisite groove. The songs are comical, but effective, making a pleasing ruckus when the film needs it most. It’s odd to recommend music as the best part of a monster movie, but everything else presented in the picture isn’t nearly as rambunctious and gleeful at the tunes. The Skunk Ape just can’t compare to the charm of an all-girl rock band from the 1960s.

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originally posted: 04/15/11 01:14:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Jay Edwards

Written by
  Jay Edwards

  Mary Kraft
  Jonathan Green
  Cynthia Evans
  Claire Bronson
  Alex Orr
  Nancy Riggs

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