Monday, June 14, 2010

Monster (2008) Surprised They Didn't Call It "Grovershield"

You know, I probably should have known what I was getting into.

Maybe it was because I had devoted nearly all of my brain capacity to studying for the two Praxis tests. Maybe it was the constant groans of the undead finally shutting off my common sense. Maybe I just wanted to poke myself with a stick to see if it would hurt.

It did. But I can look back on it and laugh now.

The Asylum is known for putting out so much cheese, it should be served with wine. Wine from a box. They are the company behind Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus, starring Deborah Gibson and Lorenzo Lamas. I don't make this stuff up, folks. I can totally get behind a movie idea like that, I'm not afraid to say. They're also known for "copying" blockbuster films into lesser versions of themselves - "mockbusters" - like a funhouse mirror that makes you look like a cheap knock-off of yourself. Kind of like if Steve Zahn looked into a mirror and saw me. I can get behind a certain, knowing "wink" to major blockbusters, but they appear to lack originality even in copying other films. Still, it's kind of fun to see what films they pay "tribute" to: Transformers becomes Transmorphers, The Day The Earth Stood Still becomes The Day The Earth Stopped, and so forth. They even did Titanic 2, for crying out loud! Ow, my sides!

Monster is a direct knock-off of Cloverfield, which as you may know, is a "found footage" style telling of a monster invasion as seen through a first-person lens. And when I say "direct knock-off," I am absolutely not kidding. Cloverfield is about a group of young people filming their escape from New York City after a monster invades from the sea. Monster is about two young sisters filming their escape from Tokyo after a monster invades from maybe the sea. The similarities just keep coming...

Mysterious explosion caught on camera to start the carnage? Check.

Lengthy lead-up to instigation of action? Check.

"I think I saw something [in all the smoke/fire]" line of dialogue? Check.

"We have to record this so people will KNOW" line of dialogue? Check.

The monster seems to be around every corner and down every street? Check.

On-camera apologies and goodbyes to parents? Check. Oh, wait, that's The Blair Witch Project. But it's here, too.

There are other wonderful surprises, though, not owing anything to any other movie:

* The deus ex machina American character, Justin, who arrives from the 70's just in time to explain things in English to our main characters.

* The presence of caves in mid-town Tokyo.

* "That's the first time I've ever seen a dead body" - said about a random guy on the street, even though Justin died just a few minutes before that, and apparently right in front of them.

* The "improvised" dialogue with lines like, "This tunnel will take us right to the streets of downtown Tokyo."

* The video cut-outs, which seem really varied and randomly-placed. I didn't know a video camera could cut out in so many ways. I thought it just, you know, cut out.

* The lack of any payoff shots of the monster, which seems to be a series of tentacles flailing through the air and a distant roar that sounds like someone trying to start a conversation, "uuuhhhhmmmm!"

* The beautiful instance of bustling people just milling about the streets despite the fact an omnipresent octopus trying to get a word in edgewise is destroying their city. In one scene, they do start running, but it isn't until one of those yawning roars sounds off. Why weren't they already in a mad dash for the hills?

* The ending. Well, it is an ending because it just stops.

So many things. So, so many things. In my head, I was hearing the angelic voices of these guys:

My heroes.

If only they could've swooped in and rescued me, but I suppose hearing their jabs and barbs in my head was good enough. Hey, they can even make a poor cat in a wedding dress seem less sad.

Was Monster a complete bomb? I can't speak for anyone else, and since it's my opinion, I'd say it's as close to a complete bomb as I've seen in quite a while. Still, it's no Hardly Working*. The two leads, Sarah Lynch and Erin Sullivan, weren't all that bad and genuinely seemed to be trying. I can't fault them for that. I also ate a really good soft pretzel during the viewing, so there was that.

* My best buddy in college and I would always use this insanely bad Jerry Lewis movie as a measuring stick for movies that were the opposite of good.

I get that sometimes there needs to be "ironic tributes" to modern blockbusters. I can get behind doing a tongue-in-cheek near-parody of a film, but I think this movie is not that. There's a hope that the novice film-renter will pick it up because it either looks like the real thing, or "looks close enough." It's the film equivalent of that relative who knew you wanted the Mr. Spock doll for your birthday, but got you the Mr. Rock doll instead.

"Live many years and thrive."

Ah, well.

Still, I don't feel angry about the experience. Every so often, it's fun to have a go at a film that just cries out for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. Or, as The Asylum might call it, Mystery Science Moviehouse 2500.

Never stop doing what you do, Asylum. Please.

Until next time, fellow survivors, don't let the unseen octopus get YOU down.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

1 comment:

  1. Its funny, I had this in line to see, but after your funny review, it is a must watch with my drunken friends.

    We try to "out" awful ourselves on a regular basis, and you know us fat guys, we like to keep regular.