I love modern day movies that have a grindhouse feel to them. And I don’t mean films that can make the picture grainy, to look as if it’s being played on a cheap reel. I’m talking about movies that capture the heart of the grindhouse genre. Movies like PLANET TERROR and CHILLERAMA are just a couple of titles that spring to mind. The latest film release from director Steven R. Monroe, simply titled MONIKA, fits nicely into this classification as well. And while it’s not perfect (ok, grindhouse films were far from it), the film is still very enjoyable and entertaining.
If you are not familiar with MONIKA, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Inception Media Group:
Reagan Tyler is a man troubled by visions and premonitions. In a cheap Las Vegas motel, he meets Monika, a beautiful young woman with seduction and revenge on her mind. Their brief encounter draws Regan into a surreal cat and mouse hunt for the hit-man who had earlier murdered Monika s sister. In the best tradition of grind-house action, Monika takes Reagan on her mission for justice and she isn t afraid to spill blood along the way. In this full throttle assassin meets assassin showdown, Monika packs a secret more powerful than her guns…she just may be invincible.
Monroe is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. I absolutely LOVED his remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and I’ve enjoyed several of his lower-budget creature-features as well, including MONGOLIAN DEATH WORM, WYVERN, and IT WAITS. I had the pleasure of seeing him at Texas Frightmare Weekend a few years ago, and he was a real class act. I hope to see many more features from him in the future.
MONIKA is shot with a very grindhouse-like style. There are not many moving camera angles, but there are a lot of singular, stationary shots. Also, there are many scenes where the color seems to be diminished. This could be due in part to the desert shooting locations, but it might be intentional as well. Either way, the look enhances the film experience and helps to set the movie’s overall tone.
The acting is great, and I am very impressed with the whole cast. Jason Wiles and Cerina Vincent do a stellar job in their roles. I find this especially impressive when considering Cerina Vincent’s earliest role was Yellow Galaxy Ranger Maya in POWER RANGERS: LOST GALAXY. This surprised me, but she has come a long way. I will admit I was leery about seeing C. Thomas Howell onscreen (he doesn’t usually show up in the best of films), however he does a fine job here.
But for as entertaining as MONIKA is, the film does have some flaws. The plot will most likely be confusing to some (as the premonitions aspect of Wiles’ character will throw some viewers off). I personally enjoyed how this all plays out, but I can see some viewers reacting differently after discovering how the movie ends. Also, you can’t expect much substance out of this film. It is what it is, and it pretty much tells you up front what to expect. If you can keep that mindset going in, you should enjoy watching it.
For me, MONIKA is a win. I recommend it, however I know some of you will not like it. Still, if you’re a fan of grindhouse like me, you should welcome this flick with open arms. The film is available now if you want to check it out.