I Am Monsters! Poster

I Am Monsters! (2023) Review – FrightFest

Many genre figures have had biographical films done about them, Boris Karloff, Kane Hodder, and Robert Englund just to name a few. But I Am Monsters! is a little different from the rest. It’s a filmed adaptation of the autobiographical one-man show of the same name by Nicholas Vince.

For those for whom the name doesn’t ring a bell, Vince played Chatterer in Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II. That was the start of a long string of films that include another of Clive Barker’s films, Nightbreed, as well as films as diverse as The Black Gloves, They’re Outside and Fuck You Immortality. Coincidentally, his most recent film, How to Kill Monsters, also made its debut at this year’s FrightFest.

After a collection of home movie clips and a brief recap of his introduction to performing, he takes the stage and tells about landing his first role, playing a pantomime dragon. From there he recounts another milestone, meeting Clive Barker and being asked to model for the covers of the hardcover editions of Books of Blood.

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From there he tells of being offered the role of a Cenobite in Hellraiser, he talks about Chatterer’s design. It’s a tale that involves dental surgery, a near-death experience, a reading from The Island of Dr. Moreau, and a recreation of the unmasking from The Phantom of the Opera.

“Fear creates monsters. When we celebrate difference and do not fear it we create peace.”

Nicholas Vince

It’s an enjoyably roundabout lead in to a collection of behind-the-scenes stories from Hellraiser. And that’s the way most of I Am Monsters! Flows. Vince goes back and forth between stories from the films he worked on and the events that shaped his love of horror in general and monsters in particular, and from there to his interest in performing.

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The backstage stories are interesting, and there were several I hadn’t heard before, no small feat with a film as written about as Hellraiser. But that actually takes up much less of the film’s seventy-minute running time than I expected. The title I Am Monsters! doesn’t so much refer to the roles he’s played, but to how he’s felt at various points in his life.

And it’s how he talks about his feelings at being different, being bullied, and on occasion losing his temper fuelling those feelings and making him more comfortable behind an actor’s mask that is most memorable. Perhaps most importantly describes he’s feelings as a closeted gay man in the 1970s and 80s with the AIDS hysteria at its height, and the Thatcher government passing anti-gay legislation. Hearing people like himself portrayed as deadly to be around and politicians proclaiming that they needed to be eradicated. Things that were not only traumatizing, but that forced him to be an actor even when he wasn’t on a stage.

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For what is mostly one man, and a couple of disembodied voices, speaking to an audience, I Am Monsters! Held my interest quite well. It is very low-key, with Vince keeping an even tone even when talking about something that is obviously a painful memory or that angers him. He makes his impact with the choice of his words and the power in them, which is much harder to do than using a loud and fiery delivery to put one’s point across.

Vince ends his presentation, just after the filming of Nightbreed, with a quick rundown of his life since then. It’s logical both in terms of where his life was at, and the time constraints of a one-person show. I was still mildly disappointed there was nothing about his more recent films, but that’s a minor complaint considering what I Am Monsters! does contain.

I Am Monsters! made its debut at this year’s FrightFest. You can check the film’s website or Nicholas Vince’s Facebook page for news of upcoming screenings.

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