Experimental filmmaker Richard Myers took seven years to construct this amalgam of familiar horror stories and personal dreams. Its unusual style is both exciting and confusing. The depth of the symbolism and imagery combines well with haunting visuals, but the constant barrage of ideas is
overwhelming. Myers' theme, that the horror stories are ingrained in each of us, is undercut by use of dreams that reflect only his own viewpoint.
MONSTERSHOW has no plot. A traveling show consisting of a narrator (Alan Benson) and an actor (Paul Shuster) act out, in the Grand Guignol style, the stories of Frankenstein, Dracula, and Jekyll and Hyde. Myers presents the show as a montage of action and spoken words, with the addition of images
from previous film versions of the stories. Different sequences are woven together by mobile painted sets, scenes of the performers traveling from spot to spot, and shots of the audience's response to the show.
The film is divided into twelve segments, each roughly seven and a half minutes long. Six segments are readings from the original texts of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde overlaid with the monstershow itself. The other six segments are dream sequences,
including subtitles and narration, which occasionally overlap. The dream sequences make use of blurred still images and surreal monologues.
One of the film's strongest scenes is one of those dream sequences showing a contortionist being put into a suitcase in a room while a man is being tossed up and down outside of the room's window.
The stories are acted out, then the show travels to a new location. One of the film's pleasures comes from understanding that the viewer is meant to take the information however he or she chooses, that sequence and continuity don't matter. Myers expects that different viewers will respond to
different dreams and will also respond differently to the three main stories. His own preference for Frankenstein is shown partially by the inclusion of an unfinished Frankenstein film he made when he was only 12.
The black-and-white photography adds to the eeriness of the Monstershow and the surreality of the dreams. The layering of subtitles over narration allows the viewer to enter his or her own dream state as two separate stories drift in and out of consciousness.
The wealth of material in the film is impressive, but also one of MONSTERSHOW's main flaws. The steady pace is overwhelming, and the film would have been stronger if an occasional break, such as a silent image or more deliberately paced shot of the show's action, gave the viewer time to assimilate
some of the images before the next ones appear. After a while, it is easy for the viewer to tune out completely.
Myers' dreams and images are fascinating and his method of connecting them to the well-known tales is powerful. Nonetheless, it is difficult for the tales to take on the universal meaning he ascribes to them when the film's other images are all specifically his. MONSTERSHOW would have been
stronger and more involving if he had included other people's dreams or more universal narratives. (Adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: NR
- Review: Experimental filmmaker Richard Myers took seven years to construct this amalgam of familiar horror stories and personal dreams. Its unusual style is both exciting and confusing. The depth of the symbolism and imagery combines well with haunting visuals, bu… (more)