Director Chris Ethridge and screenwriter Jayson Palmer embark on their very first feature film and they welcomes themselves right into the horror genre tackling a slasher film that made it (and won) a handful of film festivals including Fright Night Filmfest and International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival. Not bad for a pair of first timers. Their film, “Attack of the Morningside Monster” holds water because the pair were graced with a solid cast of veteran actors such as Robert Pralgo of “The Vampire Diaries,” genre actress Tiffany Shepis (“Night of the Demons” 2009 remake), and Nicholas Brendon from the TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Sheriff Tom Haulk is a straight edge man of the law in his small town of Morningside, New Jersey where everybody knowns everyone. Where small town secrets become small town big news. When corpses of the local drug runners start to turn up murdered and eviscerated, the sheriff starts to notice a pattern when a strange tribal symbol accompanies the gutted bodies. While Tom tries to decipher the pieces to his case, his childhood best fried Mark has personal struggles of his own keeping his cancer stricken wife alive. Tom and Mark both face demons from the past and present and their futures turn dark with a killer on a loose and death knocking at the door.
“Attack of the Morningside Monster” is a basic enough cops try to puzzle together a serial murder’s motives. What the script does however is make the ending fairly predictable, but does throw in a curveball of sorts. The only element of the story that can’t be predicted is the motive behind the killer which leaves just enough wonder for the unexpected viewer. In the end, picking out the killer is not difficult and is practically an alley-oop just waiting for the slam dunk.
Despite a transparent script, the cast of acting vets delivers reasonable flair. I haven’t seen Nicholas Brendon since “Demon Island” that involved a killer pinata (classic b-movie fun). I’m glad to seen Nicholas is still acting and his role as Mark reminds me much of his “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” role: a bit weak, strong when needed, and a nervous wreck. Cult actress Tiffany Shepis deputy Klare Austin role doesn’t shine as much as one would hope for in a actress of her credit history. Deputy Austin more or lesses flounders around the town trying to solve this case on her own without the help of her boss. Speaking of the boss Tom Haulk, Robert Pralgo has had a more mainstream career and that translate more clearly to the screen. Pralgo delivers a sheriff on a mission to make things right even if it costs him his job and his soul.
I wasn’t too keen on the motive behind the killer who wore a tribal tiled mask and a wheeled around an ancient deadly mace like weapon. Rest of the killer’s outfit involved black cape and hood and rubber gloves like you wear when doing the dishes. The “Monster,” as the movie credits the character, wasn’t very thriller aesthetically and looked more like a cheap halloween costume party goer who decided to attend the big bash at the last minute. The death scenes weren’t that all excellent as well, but given the movie’s crowd-funded budget from indiegogo.com I can’t speak too much on the matter than other that the kill scenes were as great as they were funded.
But why the title “Attack of the Morningside Monster?” A slightly boring and generic title could have given this feature more life especially since the killer is described using a certain kill method. A more thought-provoking title surely would have been appreciated for this entertaining low-budget film that keeps you guessing about the killer’s thirst for drug dealers and their vital organs. Check it out on DVD next year January 20, 2015 from Apprehensive Films and MVDvisual.