A.J.’s Big ’80s Horrorthon #11: “Monster High” (1989)
by A.J. Hakari
When I was the tender age of eight or so, Monster High did to my brain what the Ark of the Covenant did to Belloq. I only caught bits and pieces of it on USA’s “Up All Night” one time, so between Gilbert Gottfried’s shrieking and my mom yelling at me to get to bed, I couldn’t process exactly what the deuce I was watching. Now that my cerebellum’s had a couple decades to simmer, I’m finally able to comprehend that all the traumatizing imagery Monster High gleefully chucked at pre-pubescent A.J. was in the name of goofs. That doesn’t make it any better of a film — in fact, it’s gotten even dumber with age — but it has an innocent spirit that, on occasion, comes close to breaking through the great wall of stupid the thing’s erected around itself.
Everyone thinks that humanity’s end will come in the form of natural disasters, horned demons, gargantuan marshmallow spokespeople, or whatever. But as far as Monster High is concerned, man’s fate lies in a simple basketball. In this case, though, it’s actually a miniature jail housing Mr. Armageddon (David Marriott), a living doomsday device whom two dopey aliens accidentally let loose on earth. Armageddon decides to use a nearby high school as ground zero for the apocalypse, siccing a wave of monsters (from your basic zombies to radioactive shoe demons) on the student body. With time running out and his friends suffering increasingly violent ends, it’s up to defiantly dull Norm Median (Dena Iandoli) to put an end to Mr. Armageddon by waging the world’s destiny on the most important game of hoops in history.
In a way, Monster High is the Detention of its time. The movie runs fast, doles out gore and cartoony sight gags with equal gratuitousness, and isn’t to be taken seriously for a moment. It’s also just as obnoxiously-paced, but without the smug overtones that sunk Joseph Kahn’s snarkfest, this is an easier pill to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, Monster High still milks the zany teat for all it’s worth, from the barrage of weird creatures to the character names themselves (Candice Cain, Mel Anoma, Miss Anne Thrope — HARDY FREAKING HAR). It’s all so stupid and of no consequence, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t smile at least a few times. The actors sure look like they’re having fun, some of the running jokes were amusing (especially the student who’s constantly waking up from a nightmare), and there’s something delightful in mankind’s potential destruction resembling a puffy lounge singer in a vinyl muumuu.
I hesitate to sell Monster High too strongly, since even camp horror aficionados might find it too wacky to get into. If well-balanced genre satire is what you seek, then Killer Klowns from Outer Space is always good for some laughs and straight-up nightmare fuel. Monster High is all fun and games, but if you’ve got a pulse, chances are it’s going to annoy the ever-loving piss out of you.