Are you ready? Ready for what? For another Monster Monday, of course! Whether you’re ready or not, I’ll be coming at you with a discussion of Monster in the Closet from 1987! So, check your closets, grab a seat, and prepare for some monster madness!
After a series of murders in San Francisco that all take place inside closets, a reporter and his scientist friend decide to uncover the mystery and save California. Upon an investigation, it is found that the killings are being committed by a seemingly unstoppable "closet monster" who, for one reason or another, has decided to wreak havoc on the world. The film contains many comical and subtle references to homosexuality. The title references the state of being a closeted gay, the creature's sudden smitteness and affection for the handsome leading man even though there is no other indication that the creature is female, and the film ends with it collapsing and dying while "marching on San Francisco." - Wikipedia
There are all kinds of different monster movies. Some fully embrace being a “monster movie” while others seem to be slightly hesitant to accept this kind of title. It’s not that they want to necessarily avoid the categorization; rather, in these examples, the monster plays a somewhat secondary role within the story and, consequently, they don’t want the movie to be misunderstood or overshadowed by the existence of the monster. The monster plays a sort of secondary role which enhances the overarching theme of the movie rather than being the movie itself. In these kinds of cases, we might say that it’s a movie which happens to contain a monster instead of the reverse (a movie featuring a monster which happens to contain some kind of story). Our movie today – Monster in the Closet – is unapologetically of the latter sort… It’s a MONSTER monster movie.
This should come as no surprise: when your title contains the word monster, it would appear evident what you’re going for. (Although, I’m now thinking about the movie “Monster” with Charlize Theron and recognizing that the movie has nothing to do with a monster at all. What a tease. But, I digress…) Monster in the Closet is a monster movie unambiguously and has no reservations about this fact. And, indeed, this is what makes the movie so much fun – it’s honest, straight forward and never (ever) shy about presenting its lead (the monster) to the audience. The monster is at center stage, in the spotlight, waltzing around seemingly without interruption for the majority of the running time. If it’s a monster you want to see, Monster in the Closet is the movie for you.
Monster in the Closet is another one of these movies that I wish I’d seen when I was younger, but didn’t get around to watching until well into my 20s. It’s very possible that if I saw the movie decades ago, my interpretation of the absurdity might have been different; however, this hypothetical is irrelevant since I didn’t see it decades ago – I saw it five years ago and the absurdity is (very much) present to a great extent. And this is an understatement. This movie is absurd beyond measure. It really is. But, in a (mostly) good way. This should come as no surprise when you learn that it was picked up and released by Troma. I don’t think any sane person would go into this movie thinking it could be anything other than essentially exactly what is presented. This is what I mean when I say the movie is entirely honest.
The monster itself is a guy in a suit, and very little in the way of effects outside of the suit are implemented. It is, more or less, a guy walking around in a relatively uninspired monster suit the whole time. I did like the monster for its simplicity, but better monster suits were made 40+ years prior (think Creature from the Black Lagoon), so it does seem necessary to critique the movie for its unoriginality and the banality of the design. This might not be a problem if the monster was shown in carefully composed shots utilizing the correct kind of lighting and angles; however, there is nothing resembling subtlety or innovation in any of these shots: the monster is literally walking around in broad daylight, seen almost constantly in wide shots displaying the entire body. But again, there is clearly no shame in this kind of display, so props to the filmmakers for simply not giving a damn.
The other thing I liked about the movie was its insistence on the monster being a global phenomenon. In the majority of monster movies, the monster is usually not seen as a universal threat, but rather a major inconvenience for a select group of people (a person, a family, or a city). In Monster in the Closet, the monster is shown to be absolutely unstoppable, despite the fact that he actually appears to not be very threatening aesthetically or intimidating at all. This makes for some pretty hilarious scenes: in a number of instances, the monster is spontaneously making his way in and out of closets while the military devotes all of their capabilities to destroying him (to no avail). For some reason or another, the monster is completely immune to guns or explosions, even though there’s not really any explanation as to why this is the case (he seems very much organic and flesh based, thus should be easily stopped by the weakest of forces). Eventually, it is thought that the monster is utterly invincible, and the world is told that the only way of preventing him is to destroy all their closets. But, who wants to live in a world without closets? No one. That’s who.
Overall, however, the movie is a good time. There’s nothing resembling any sort of scares and the movie plays itself out as a total comedy. It doesn’t always work, but if you essentially want to see a goofy monster running around for 80 minutes, then you’ll certainly like Monster in the Closet. Not to mention, the movie is worth watching if only because you get to see Walker and Fergie involving themselves in this sort of endeavor well before reaching the mainstream. I still hold that they reached their pinnacle in this movie, but you'll have to be the judge of that!