In writer/director Chris von Hoffmann’s new horror/caper movie Monster Party, three thieves plan a daring heist posing as waiters at a fancy Malibu mansion dinner party in hopes of paying off an urgent debt. When their plan goes horribly wrong, the trio realizes the dinner guests are not as innocent as they seem, and their simple cash grab becomes a violent and desperate battle to get out of the house alive. The film stars Julian McMahon (“Nip/Tuck”), Robin Tunney (The Craft, “The Mentalist”), Sam Strike (Leatherface), Erin Moriarty (Blood Father), Lance Reddick (John Wick, “Fringe”), Brandon Micheal Hall (“Search Party”), Virginia Gardner (Project Almanac), and Diego Boneta (“Scream Queens”) .
It’s tempting to see Monster Party as a class struggle allegory between working class criminals and wealthy murderers who kill for thrills. Von Hoffmann doesn’t disagree:
“There is certainly part of that in there. I think every genre film has some sort of visual subtext underneath it, or some layer underneath it or it would be just like goofing around. With this movie I thought it was very important for me to basically take all these statements about society and our generation, and sort of shock-of-the-month on the screen, just really taking all these things about our world and just sort of shaking them up in a blender and just watching the explosion happen under very horrific circumstances. I grew up somewhere in between the wealth classes – my mother’s side of the family was sort of blue collar, lower-middle-class, and my father’s side is more upper class, a bit more hoity-toity, and so I grew up between both of those kinds of worlds.”
And Monster Party does persistently seem to represent our worst nightmare about the One Percent, and what they’re doing to the other Ninety-Nine. In fact, one of von Hoffmann’s serial killers is actually wearing a conspicuously red necktie.
“I think if you’re going to do a story like this you’ve got to kind of balance it out from both different perspectives and not become one-sided…I wanted to make sure that both, perspectives are represented, and not having it completely one-sided,” von Hoffmann says.
There’s virtually no one in the movie who isn’t a criminal, but we find ourselves rooting for the burglars over the murderers.
“I am very attracted to stories where everybody is a little bit flawed,” von Hoffmann says. “It’s sort of like flawed people against even more flawed people, and people that you wouldn’t think would be that flawed are way more flawed and way more disturbed, and there’s maybe a little bit of satire in that, but then there’s the couple played by Virginia Gardner and Brandon Micheal Hall, and and they’re very much in love, they’re just good people in the grand scheme of things, and they also die in the most graphically, so it’s almost like they pay the price for being pure in his world, surrounded by assholes. Paul Verhoeven is always a big inspiration for me, because I feel like he makes a movie like Basic Instinct and Showgirls and all that. He makes movies that deal with these sorts of moral quagmires, these morality tales where no one is 100% good and I’ve always been attracted to [them]…I try not to subscribe to the typical clichés or stories with the hero-protagonist kind of feel to them.”
In Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone says that killing’s not like smoking because you can quit. Here we’ve got a house full of allegededly recovering serial killers – but how serious are these killers about recovery?
Von Hoffmann chuckles at this. “I would say not as serious as they should be… It’s one of those things where I can look at it like a domino effect. It’s like you’re in a hotel room, and you’re a recovering alcoholic, and you see a mini-fridge that just happens to be stocked with alcohol, you’re going to be very very tempted to take that alcohol. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s like the young son who I sort of look at like the prince of a family who wants to make his mark and be like the king, and he clearly does not really care that much about this whole recovery thing. He doesn’t take it seriously. It’s like there was something missing from their brains. Everybody else certainly is trying to prevent themselves from doing it, but just one thing happens and it just spirals out of control and leads to chaos. As I said, like a domino effect.”
There is a little bit of a nod to Saw at one point late in the movie, where we seem to be dealing with the question of whether anybody can be motivated to kill, and the answer in Monster Party certainly seems to be emphatically yes.
Again, von Hoffmann doesn’t disagree: “The movie obviously dramatically kind of goes into another dimension where it almost steps out of reality, it gets so heightened and so extreme, but yes, I think anybody that’s forced into a situation, I think it’s like, Milo [played in the movie by actor Lance Reddick] – it’s the last possible thing that you do when there’s no other solution. I think there’s definitely something to that – if you are just pushed to a breaking breaking point, you just do what you have to do.”
Was it just a happy accident that leading man Sam Strike who, is excellent in the movie, has one of the most macho names this side of Magnum or Bullitt, but is playing a guy named Casper?
“Actually funny, there was actually another actor that was previously attached to that character for a while and he and I were skyping for like weeks and he had a completely different look,” von Hoffmann says. “He ended up having to drop out like 8 days before we started shooting and we had to scramble around, because it was such a particular kind of role, and I needed some internal kind of emotional pain that the actor had to be able to convey and then all of a sudden I saw Sam Strike’s head shot. I met with him and we hit it off. He actually came from this kind of world it was very authentic. I was curious to see him audition, and he was just wonderful, no ego, just gave 110 percent all the way through and we’re still really good friends we talk all the time.”
What was the greatest Challenge and making Monster Party?
“We had less than 3 weeks to shoot the movie, like 17 days, and I think just getting the coverage with that amount of actors. We shot anamorphic, with RED Dragon 6 K, with anamorphic Prime lenses or Cine lenses, and it wasn’t necessarily like ‘Oh it’s going to be all shooting anamorphically…’ We felt like we needed to shoot anamorphic because we had all these actors on screen at once, and we had to be creative just to get a lot of them on screen at once, because we just couldn’t do like single, single, single for each one of them all the time. Just shooting anything with a lot of them on screen together or whatever, just dialogue or some sort of action, that was always trickiest part, just making sure that all the actors had organic amount of screen time for their characters, and making sure they were really getting the story and the Dynamics right in that amount of time. That was my biggest challenge.”
RLJE Films will release Monster Party nationally in theaters, VOD and Digital HD on Friday, November 2nd, 2018.