Motivation to make films ranges from personal to profitable to political. Some filmmakers start with one agenda in mind and experience a handful more as time passes, such as the political or social activist employing film to communicate ideas and concerns who ventures into fiction movie-making. Other filmmakers begin and stay with one mentality—they make films for themselves, their friends, or just as a hobby. Nothing serious, nothing ambitious. The content and spirit of horror film-compilation “Monster Trilogy” (2001) suggests that its director, Jay Edwards, is in it for the fun. “Mountain of Terror, Day of Dread” (1998), “Project: Tiki Puka Puka” (1999), and “Esta Noche We Ride!” (2001) compose the three-part horror, sci-fi, western medley.
At fifteen minutes long, “Mountain of Terror” is the most nonsensical and “home-video” in the trilogy. It begins with a fisherman walking through a forest where he is attacked by a volcano-shaped creature that is unmistakably a handmade costume. Somewhere else on this mountain of terror, The Professor (Jay Edwards), Fez Whatley (Chris Moore), Max Planck (Shana Coley), and Mindy Wesson (Alyson Cook) abandon their overheated car on the side of the road and set off into the woods. They come across Jon the Shepherd (Jon Dilling) who takes them to the house of Backwoods redneck (Andy McDaniel) and his common law wife (Cecilia Loos). The quartet is warned about the monster that lives in the woods; of course, one by one they die. The Professor has a plan that is “so crazy that it just might work.” It doesn’t. Wheelchair-ridden Backwoods redneck tries to feed the monster cheese.
What’s more hilarious than the plot in “Mountain of Terror” is that there is no attempt to hide the human-in-costume aspect. In one scene the monster is on a hill, and when he allegedly jumps down on top of an unsuspecting victim, you can see that the person under the monster suit has simply thrown down the costume. The second short, twenty minute-long “Project: Tiki Puka Puka,” is more structured but equally funny. A white-haired scientist named Maxmillian Slappy III (Andy McDaniel) hijacks a space craft and orders the crew to fly to planet Tiki Puka Puka and destroy his estranged-and-now-insane brother Escobar Slappy IV (McDaniel). The faraway planet is woodsy. The natives’ clothes and architectural aesthetic is a mishmash of the East, the South American, and the Polynesian. The inhabitants are in a celebratory mood as music resembles space whistling and something out of the 60s and “Hawaii Five-O” plays—either for them or for us to hear. There are rock monsters on Tiki Puka Puka and a confrontation between the Slappy brothers that is right out of “Apocalypse Now.”
“Esta Noche We Ride!” completes “Monster Trilogy.” Just under fifteen minutes and featuring 60s rock-like music from Los Mex Pistols del Norte’s “Esta Noche We Ride” album, the last short draws heavily upon Spaghetti Westerns. One young KFC colonel type and one Mexican Django type draw their guns, and then space bats attack. Once again, there is no attempt to cover artifice as the people holding the rods to which the bats are attached can be seen. The two would-be duelers make for the hills, stumble upon a gun fight between two groups of people that momentarily put their differences aside to fight the space bats. There’s a 19th century Chinese man in the mix. The Colonel (Jon Dilling) states that the bats are resistant to bullets and the only way to defeat them is to transport themselves to a different world. Hallucinogenic liquid is passed around and soon everyone is seeing quadruple. People die.
One by one the production values and overall quality of the shorts improve. Practice means progress and progress will soon lead to perfection. Jay Edwards made “Monster Trilogy” for educational and recreational purposes. If you manage to get your hands on a copy of it, love it, and want to see more of Edwards’ zany creativity, keep an eye out for his monster-beach-party film “Stomp! Shout! Scream!” at a film festival near you. In the mean time, though, hop over to www.stompshoutscream.com.