Monster in the Closet
Review Date: May 8, 2001
Released by: Troma
Release date: November 17, 1998
Region 0, NTSC
opens in the small California community of Chestnut Hills as a solemn narrator discusses unexplained phenomena and sputters Ed Wood-ian gibberish like "Usually these seemingly unexplainable occurrences are eventually explained, but every so often they remain mysteriously inexplicable. Sometimes it is best to accept the unexplainable, rather than search in vain for inexplicable explanations." We then see a college sorority girl screaming as she is attacked and killed by something in her closet. Next, an old blind man (John Carradine
) in an apartment nearby is looking for his dog when he stumbles into his closet and is brutally murdered. Finally, a little girl is playing hide and go seek when she enters the closet and meets a similar fate.
Soon after, at the headquarters of the San Francisco Daily Globe, geeky obituary writer Dick Clarke (Donald Grant
) goes to see his boss, Mr. Bernstein (Jesse White
) and ask if he could get a real reporting assignment. Dick got his job because his uncle owns the paper, and he and his obits are the laughing stock of the whole newsroom. Scoop Johnson (Frank Ashmore
), the paper's star reporter, tells Bernstein he has a good assignment for Richard, and gives him a clipping about the three murders in Chestnut Hills for him to check out. After Richard leaves, the two men burst into laughter - the story is a three-week-old piece of news that Scoop pulled out of a litter basket!
Dick drives to Chestnut Hills, and fortunately for him, the story is still going strong. While waiting to see the sheriff, he meets The Professor (Paul Walker), a young boy who is called that because he is so brilliant. He buys the kid a candy bar and they discuss an invention that the boy is working on. Unfortunately for Dick, The Professor's mother, Diane (Denise DuBarry
), comes out of a meeting with the Sheriff Sam Ketchem (Claude Akins
) and chews the poor reporter out for giving her kid chocolate, which is unhealthy. Ketchem explains that Diane is a professor at the local college, and she's got a theory that the murders were committed by some sort of snake.
Meanwhile, nearby, a woman (Stella Stevens
) is taking a shower when a figure comes into the bathroom and pulls the shower curtain open, scaring her half to death. It turns out, though, that it's just her husband (Paul Dooley
), telling her he's home early from work. She goes back to her shower, but he scares her again, coming in to ask if they need anything from the local store. Again, she goes back to her shower, but he scares the hell out of her AGAIN, this time because he can't find his car keys. She tells him to get her set of keys from her purse in the closet. He goes to look and is brutally killed by an unseen creature.
As Dick and Ketchem are talking, they hear screaming coming from the street outside and rush out to see the woman standing there shouting that her husband was killed by a monster. The two rush to her house and find the body, but no trace of any creature, save for what appears to be a claw that Dick finds lying on the floor. He takes it to the college and meets Diane again, apologizing for the chocolate incident and showing her what he found. When he asks her about the snake theory, she explains to him that the moronic sheriff hadn't listened to her when she told him about it - she was only trying to tell him that the wounds were similar to those a large snake might inflict. Dick also meets Dr. Pennyworth (Henry Gibson
), an eccentric scientist who gladly accepts the claw for analysis. Pennyworth tells him that he might be able to give him the results by that evening if he joins him and Diane and her family for dinner.
Dick gladly accepts the invitation, and shows up at Diane's house that evening where he also meets Father Finnegen (Howard Duff), Diane's uncle and the local pastor, who frequently gets into religion vs. science arguments with Pennyworth. Their meal is disturbed by the sounds of screaming and police sirens outside. They rush out to see a family across the street screaming to the cops about some monster coming out of their closet. Sheriff Ketchem has men surround the building to flush out whatever is in there, but they get more than they bargained for - out of the house steps a huge, grotesque and vicious monster. It kills Ketchem and then runs rampant.
News of the closet-dwelling monster in Chestnut Hills sends the nation into panic as the president orders Federal troops into the community to deal with the beast. Commanded by General Turnbull (Donald Moffat
), the army sets up a defensive perimeter around the area where the monster is believed to be hiding, but Dr. Pennyworth pleads that it not be killed, that they must try and communicate with it. After analyzing the creature's movement pattern, the military predicts where the monster will show up next - at the local grammar school in a matter of minutes. Everyone rushes to the school where they are just in time to save The Professor, who had stayed late to work on a project, from the beast. Troops surround the building and prepare to fire, but Pennyworth rushes through their lines and tries to communicate with the monster using a xylophone. At first it seems to be working, but then the thing attacks him, and Turnbull gives the order to open fire. However, the guns and shells are useless against the monster, and it simply retreats back into a closet. Diane and Dick rush to the side of dying Pennyworth, who realizes the error of his ways. He tells them the monster must be stopped. "Destroy all..." he begins to say and then drops dead. Destroy all what? Will they be able to figure out what he was trying to tell them before the monster can take any more victims?
Monster in the Closet
is a great little spoof of old horror/sci-fi films that is really helped by both it's tongue-in-cheek attitude and it's great cast. Director Bob Dahlin knows exactly why many of those old movies are so endearing, and how to lampoon them. The movie is filled with both homages to truly classic movies like Psycho, The Thing
and King Kong
(including a modern, more politically-correct take on the Beauty killed the beast theme), as well as outright satire on almost every hoary old monster-movie cliché out there - like the fact that, no matter how dangerous the creature is, some scientist will always want to capture it alive, or that the beast is almost always invincible to normal weapons, and that the military will always disregard that fact and try to blast it anyway. The actors have no trouble making fun of their characters either, and their skills help keep the film moving, even when some of the gags fall flat, which tends to happen occasionally. Henry Gibson is great as the Einstein-ish Dr. Pennyworth, who constantly tries to make his points by telling a gross story about how he cured cholera by dissecting a frog, while Donald Moffat is a riot as the cranky General Turnbull. The brief cameo appearances by actors like John Carradine and Claude Akins are also great.
Monster in the Closet
is presented in full-frame 1.33:1 (no cropping is evident, so this would seem to be the correct ratio). The source material here is in excellent shape. The picture is smooth and detailed, with nicely balanced colors. Aside from a few scratches, there is no print damage, and grain was barely noticeable.
Unfortunately, there is a problem with the image - PIXELATION! Although I've seen worse on some of Troma's other releases, it's still quite noticeable, especially in the background of the frame and in some of the darker scenes. What irks me is that this isn't a simple compression issue - this is a dual-layered DVD, there's no reason, or excuse, for why there shouldn't be enough memory available. It seems to be the result of s sloppy mastering job more than anything else.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono, and sounds good. Music and sound effects are clearly heard and sound fairly powerful, and dialogue is always intelligible and easy to understand. There is no evident distortion. There are no subtitles included, nor are there any other language tracks.
This disc is not terribly heavy on supplemental features. There is a trailer for this and a number of other Troma films, a very brief still gallery, the Troma Intelligence Test (T.I.T.) and Tour of Troma studios, as well as numerous Troma-related vignettes, all of which are fairly amusing, but since most of them have appeared on many other Troma DVDs, they don't get as much credit here as they normally would.
The package also lists "The Premiere episode of the 'Toxic Crusaders' television show" as an extra, although I was unable to find it anywhere on the disc.
This release features an acceptable transfer, acceptable audio presentation and an acceptable number of supplements. The only outstanding feature of this disc is the movie itself, which is heartily recommended.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B-
- Running Time - 1 hour 29 minutes
- Rated PG
- 1 Disc
- 9 Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
- Troma Intelligence Test (T.I.T.)
- Tour of Troma studios
- Troma-related vignettes
- Theatrical Trailers
- Still Gallery