Monster Show Reviews

In interviews veteran Ohio independent filmmaker Richard Myers has quoted Fellini’s reference to film as a ‘dream for the waking mind’—appropriate since Myers’ latest work takes its cues from the logic of dreams. We see a small traveling show performing in various outdoor Ohio locales; some actors do episodes from Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde while another narrates in the aggressive monotone of a carnival barker. Myers intercuts clips from old movies, including versions of the same three stories, as well as footage from his own unfinished first effort—a Frankenstein begun when he was 12. All of these elements are deftly combined to interpenetrate rather than collide: the barker’s voice often continues when the old movies begin so that he seems to be narrating them as well The result is that present and past, the personal and the public, Hollywood and amateur theater all seem to meld. Besides seeing the traveling show’s performances, we see its old van going from place to place and the stage being set up: painted flats roll down, obscuring the outdoor landscape, or roll up to reveal the scenery or another flat behind. The inclusion of these moments—as well as the rickety stage, nondescript landscape, and Myers’ sensuous, grainy black-and-white cinematography —is the key to the film’s tone and meaning. Myers casts his meditation on the tenuousness of all experience as a modest essay set in seemingly unimpressive midwestern locales, and rather than interrogating the relationship of life to theater, he prefers to slide effortlessly between the two.”

Fred Camper, Critics Choice, Chicago Reader Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers

Think of your earliest dreams, the dreams of childhood, and you probably think of one thing: monsters ... Of course, the most enduring of them all, the monster superstars, are Dracula, the Frankenstein creature, and Jekyll and Hyde. All three made their Hollywood talking-picture debuts in 1931, a stellar year in monster movies. Now in MONSTERSHOW, playing tonight at the Cleveland Cinematheque, Richard Myers reunites them in a dream-movie of stunning originality.

Myers considers Dracula, Frankenstein, and Jekyll and Hyde icons, and their stories modern myths. It’s safe to say they have become mythic through the movies ... MONSTERSHOW explores the monsters as both personal and public myth. Like all of Myers’ films, it incorporates the director’s own dreams, which he has been recording and transcribing to film for decades ... Myers randomly intercuts these dreams with clips from the three 1931 movies ... and he organizes these through a fairly simple motif, the carny show. Two men, a barker (Alan Benson) and his assistant and actor (Paul Schuster) ... set up their rickety little stage in fields near factories, and perform the tales of Dracula, Frankenstein, and Jekyll and Hyde.

One other element enters into the movie, the gem in this treasure chest of memory and myth. In 1950, when he was 12, Myers made his first movie. It was a Frankenstein movie, and in it, he played the hunchbacked assistant who mixes up the ‘normal’ and ‘criminal’ brains. MONSTERSHOW keeps coming back to that 8-mm movie, which serves as both a running gag and something deeper: a comment on our unceasing, sometimes naive attempts to come to terms with these monsters of our collective unconscious. Forty-five years later, Myers has done it—brilliantly.”

Joanna Conners, Film Critic, Cleveland Plain Dealer

How ghoulishly lovely that Richard Myers’ 110 minute magnum opus, MONSTERSHOW, grabbed off the Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film. Moving with the speed of a jet-powered hearse, MONSTERSHOW mashed elements of Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into a kind of jabbering traveling theater.

Christopher Potter, The Ann Arbor News, 1996 Ann Arbor Film Festival