Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Monster Project – review

Director: Victor Mathieu

Release Date: 2017

Contains spoilers

Found footage films are, I think, generally a love it or hate it style. With notable exceptions, I tend to find them a way of disguising the worst excesses of a low budget, the hand-held cams and night vision hiding the worst but not in a way that anyone might call clever. This does actually have some interesting sfx moments but certainly suffers from this syndrome to some degree.

The genre also ends up, in many cases, creating non-credible excuses for the fact these moments are being constantly filmed by the protagonists (rather than dropping cameras and running). As I’ll get into later this actually goes one step and forgets about its own conceits at one point.

fake monster
It begins with Jamal (Jamal Quezaire) in a house with a camera and wandering around, reacting to noises. *It* is on the roof, he realises and climbs a ladder to check it out. We see a shape, eyes flash bright in the dark and Jamal falls back as it seems to lunge. Then he’s asked if he is alright. He missed the crashmat and the monster was his friend Devon (Justin Bruening). They have purposely made this for their YouTube channel and hits are money. Devon has had the idea to create a series (or film, the idea does seem fluid); they will go out and look for real monsters. The project is christened the Monster Project and they put an advert out for real monsters.

Jamal Quezaire as Jamal
Jamal shares a house with Murielle (Murielle Zuker) and Bryan (Toby Hemingway). Murielle is Devon’s ex and still hurting as he just took off (his return has not been mentioned to her) and she is a grip for a production company. Bryan is a recovering addict (237 days sober) who wants to break into the industry, is openly Christian and clearly has a thing for Murielle. Eventually these two will be drawn into Devon’s plan but first he and Jamal meet up with a Native American cop (Steven Flores) who claims to be a skinwalker.

Shiori Ideta as Shiori
The next contact they get is with Shayla (Yvonne Zima) a tattooist, who works nights and who claims to be a vampire. She has informed Devon that she’ll be interviewed for the price of a vial of blood. Devon offers to pay Bryan $600 for some blood (and later hires him to do sound). They leave the blood on a park bench, as requested, and something moves around them. When they refocus on the bench the blood is gone. The last contact is from Shiori (Shiori Ideta) who claims to be possessed by a demon.

Yvonne Zima as Shayla
Devon hires a location (a disused house that was used for Satanic rituals in the 60s) and arranges the interviews for the night of an (unstated, but obviously lunar) eclipse. The interviews go ahead – and I’ll look at Shayla’s very quickly as that gives us our lore – but, of course, things start going very wrong. Especially when the eclipse begins and the monsters seem to lose control of their monstrous sides…

Shayla refuses to have Devon interview and insists that it is Bryan who does the interview – somehow knowing it was his blood she was given. She won’t say how old she is but does say that vampires are not ageless. She suggests that she is nocturnal as the day is too bright and loud, it is like living with a permanent hangover. She was able to taste (and identify) the drugs in Bryan’s blood (the resulting shock and friendship meltdown seems off as Murielle should have know. She didn’t comment on his state on his earlier birthday, further than to note that his pupils were wide and thus he must have been having a good time). A bite kills and turns, thus making the vampires undead and Shayla can’t resist a lick of her clients’ blood when tattooing. On being staked the vampire vomits blood, allowing the filmmakers to go from whole to partially decomposed with no transformative sfx needed.

dead vampire
Which neatly brings me to the found footage aspect. Who found the footage, or indeed whether it was ever found is almost irrelevant. However, the source of the footage is not. We get scenes that seem to be from the skinwalker’s body-cam, we get footage shot by Jamal and also footage captured on a head cam Murielle buys for Bryan as a birthday present. However at one point Bryan seems to cross over to another place and the director seems to have forgotten the conceit by filming and showing us this. It could be argued that he did actually pass over to “the other side” and took his camera with him, however it is clear that he has phased out and is physically still with the group.

coming atchya
The acting isn’t anything special, and a tad prone to overt histrionics – though I thought Yvonne Zima seemed to be having a whale of a time playing the vampire (and chewing the scenery as she did so). The story does pull together at the end, though it is a little hokey and I saw the general direction (if not the detail) coming. Some of the effects work rather well (though how well they would have worked if this had been a traditionally shot film, rather than a found footage, is debatable). 4 out of 10 is probably generous but any less seemed harsh.

The imdb page is here.

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