I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: low-budget filmmakers should not make movies about technology. There is a reason only Hollywood make good movies based around technology — because they have the resources to pull it off. When a low budget filmmaker tackles technology, the lack of resources is so obvious that it’s painful to watch them labor under such disadvantages. Even if you absolutely know nothing about computers or still can’t stop your VCR from blinking 12:00, it’s really easy to tell when a “computer movie” is so grossly over its head.
George Huang, the writer/director of “How to Make a Monster”, should have known better. Huang was responsible for the funny and satirical “Swimming with Sharks”, but “Monster” threatens to undermine all the respect I have for him. “Monster” is about 3 computer geeks and a suit that goes to work for Nazi-like gaming executive Faye (Colleen Camp), who treats her staff and the work place like a concentration camp. To keep the geeks hard at work on her (supposedly) super duper new computer game that’s (supposedly) going to make them all rich, she tells them that if they can resolve all the issues involved with the game in 4 weeks, one of them will get a $1 million dollar bonus. About 40 minutes into “Monster”, an electrical surge causes an exo-skeleton used to scan images into the computer to come alive and start killing geeks. Oh boy!
(I suggest reading my reviews of “Code Hunter” and “Subterano” to fully grasp my weariness concerning low-budget filmmakers trying to overcome their lack of resources in “computer movies”.)
You need very little knowledge of computer games to realize that the supposedly super duper game the geeks are working on looks like something a 9-year old slapped together over the weekend on his mother’s borrowed 486 computer. Which is to say, the game that’s supposed to make them all millionaires look like crap. Worst, it looks like cheap, amateurish, and completely lame crap. And am I really supposed to believe that 3 geeks, working completely independent of each other, will in 4 week’s time pull all of their “work” into one coherent game? I dare say that “Monster” asks for way too much suspension of disbelief.
I don’t want to waste my time savaging the movie’s plot because I only have a couple of hours to write this review. Needless to say, the supposed “geeks” are as convincing as Michael Jackson pretending to be normal. Among the fake geeks is the giant biker-like Tyler Mane (“X-Men”), who does his best work when a role doesn’t require him to speak; here, Mane is just embarrassing as Hardcore, the game’s weapons designer. There’s Karim Prince playing Sol, the token black character; because Huang’s screenplay is afraid we might not “get” that Sol is a smart black guy, Sol wears “brainy” glasses and uses $10 dollar words. That is, unless Sol is insulting his white co-workers, in which case he “goes ghetto”.
On the other hand, Jason Marsden is actually very good and convincing as Bug, the acne-challenged programmer. It goes without saying that if you spend enough time in front of a computer so that you become an expert on it, you won’t look like gym rats Mane and Prince. Then again, I’m sure three guys who look like Bug wouldn’t have been, er, “sexy”. Although Clea DuVall (“Ghosts of Mars”) provides plenty of sex appeal as hapless intern Laura, who may or may not have a thing for handsome businessman Steven Culp, who should have known better than to waste time on this loser movie.
George Huang is a good writer, as “Swimming with Sharks” can attest to, but his screenplay for “Monster” is just ridiculous. The film’s entire first half is all absurd comedy as we watch the actors pretend to know something about computers besides banging loudly on the keyboard for “hacker effects”. The second half, on the other hand, degrades into a Teen Slasher movie, with decapitated heads, severed bodyparts, and a literal bloody mess. All I can say is that George Huang must not have ever played a single computer game in his life, or bothered to find out what it actually takes to create a game from scratch. As it stands, “Monster” is at best silly, and at worst pure crap.
George Huang (director) / George Huang (screenplay)
CAST: Steven Culp …. Peter
Clea DuVall …. Laura Wheeler
Tyler Mane …. Hardcore
Jason Marsden …. Bug