Review: ‘Monsters of California,’ starring Jack Samson, Gabrielle Haugh, Jack Lancaster, Jared Scott, Casper Van Dien and Richard Kind

October 31, 2023

by Carla Hay

Jared Scott, Jack Samson and Jack Lancaster in “Monsters of California” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“Monsters of California”

Directed by Tom DeLonge

Culture Representation: Taking place in the San Diego area, the sci-fi comedy film “Monsters of California” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one African American person and one Latin person) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Three teenage buddies team up with a teenage girl and a scientist to solve the mystery of what the government agent father of one of the friends was investigating before the father disappeared. 

Culture Audience: “Monsters of California” will appeal primarily to people who are fans director/co-writer Tom DeLonge (who is best known for being a singer/guitarist in the rock band Blink-182), because hardly anyone else will be able to tolerate this time-wasting and wretched film.

Jack Lancaster, Richard Kind and Gabrielle Haugh in “Monsters of California” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

Completely awful on every single level, “Monsters of California” takes a mishandled detour from paranormal investigations of ghosts to hidden conspiracies about outer-space aliens. The movie’s three vapid and annoying lead characters make everything worse. It’s a comedy in name only, because the so-called jokes are not funny and are mostly pathetic.

Tom DeLonge, an on-again/off-again singer/guitarist for the rock band Blink-182, makes his feature-film directorial debut with “Monsters of California.” DeLonge co-wrote the “Monsters of California” screenplay with Ian Miller and Ben Kull. It would be a little too presumptuous to tell DeLonge, “Don’t quit your day job” as a musician, just because his first movie as a director is a stinker. There’s always potential to improve, but “Monsters of California” shows that DeLonge has a lot to learn about filmmaking.

“Monsters of California” takes place in the San Diego area, where three teenage pals spend their free time as amateur paranormal investigators. The three friends are supposed to be about 17, but the actors portraying these characters look like they’re in their mid-to-late 20s. The leader and irritating narrator of this trio is Dallas (played by Jack Samson), who spends too much time rambling with idiotic commentary throughout this dreadful movie.

For example, in the opening scene, Dallas says in a mindless voiceover: “Want to know something crazy? Time is an illusion. Physicists say that the past, present and future exist at the exact same moment. Like every possible thing that can occur is occurring all at once. So yeah, I guess I’m going to try to explain the unexplainable.” One thing that’s unexplainable: Why anyone thought this horrible screenplay was worth making into a movie.

Dallas’ two best friends are dimwitted stoner Toe (played by Jack Lancaster) and pretty boy Tyler (played by Jared Scott), two cretins who show more than a hint of misogyny in how they objectify women. The character of Toe is the worst. His nickname should’ve been Toe Fungus, which describes his personality.

Dallas is interested in the paranormal, partly because his government agent father disappeared three years ago while on the job and is presumed dead. Dallas’ father left behind a paranormal notebook that Dallas uses as his guide. The notebook has locations with known paranormal activity.

In an early scene in the movie, the three buddies visit an abandoned house that is the closest suspected paranormal location to them. They see a ghostly demon (which Tyler calls Mr. Asshole) that knocks over a few things in the house and scares off Dallas, Toe and Tyler, who run quickly away from the house. None of it comes close to looking believable.

“Monsters of California” is such a messy and disjointed film that it completely abandons the ghost storyline and then goes down an erratic path of outer-space aliens and conspiracy theories. If you saw the trailer for “Monsters of California” before seeing the movie, then you will already know that Dallas’ father Myers (played by Casper Van Dien) is still alive. The trailer reveals a lot about the movie, including how horrendous it is.

The U.S. government is looking for a secret GPS device that Myers had but he kept hidden. Dallas finds the device and some secret journals that were also hidden by his father. It all leads to a part of a story that you can figure out quicker than you can say, “Some people made a horrible movie that tries to be like ‘The Goonies’ in a place like Area 51.”

Along the way, Dallas meets a teenage love interest named Kelly (played by Gabrielle Haugh), who sneaks out of her house to join Dallas, Toe and Tyler on their misadventure. And here comes another sci-fi stereotype: the misunderstood scientist who’s gone rogue because he doesn’t agree with what the government wants to do with his research. This scientist is Dr. Walker (played by Richard Kind), who invented the GPS device that the government is desperate to have. Longtime actor Kind is the only person in this move’s cast who gives an adequate performance, but it’s hampered by such a witless screenplay.

“Monsters of California” has a poorly acted subplot about Dallas being unhappy that his religious mother Leah (played by Arianne Zucker) plans to marry her boyfriend Myron (played by Jay Bingham), who’s been dating her for about a year. Dallas, who believes that his father Myers might still be alive, thinks Myron is a dorky interloper who doesn’t deserve to be a part of the family. Dallas has two younger siblings: outspoken teen sister Meg (played by Camille Kostek) approves of Myron, while quiet brother Roman (played by Roman Sayer Cote), who’s about 8 or 9, has a blank personality.

There aren’t very many redeeming qualities about “Monsters of California,” which becomes more frantic in its foolishness, as the movie stumbles over plot hole after plot hole. The visual effects look very amateurish. And almost every character in the movie is unbearable to watch. “Monsters of California” is the type of sci-fi misfire about outer-space aliens that will make you wish that the aliens could zap this repellant movie into oblivion so no one else will have the misfortune of watching it.

Screen Media Films released “Monsters of California” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on October 6, 2023. The movie will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 5, 2023.

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