The biggest obstacle to really enjoying “Monster Man” is the screenplay, which features two unsympathetic characters as leads. Granted, one shouldn’t expect too much realism in a movie called “Monster Man”, where the villain uses a soup up monster truck as his weapon of choice. Then again, one should be able to reasonably expect our leading men not to annoy us from the opening frame. Is that too much to ask? “Monster Man” pushes the Annoyance Factor so much that if you can survive the film’s first 60 minutes, which mostly irritates when it wants to amuse, then the rest of the movie isn’t too bad.
As for plot, “Monster Man” is predictably vapid and derivative to the point of being criminal, and for the first hour you get the feeling all the detours to the monster truck scenes are simply a way for writer/director Michael Davis to indulge in more “witty” moments between asshole Harley (Justin Urich) and ineffectual wuss Adam (Eric Jungmann). You see, Adam is on a cross-country trip to confess his love for a girl from college he’s always had a crush on, hoping that his declaration will stop her impending marriage. Harley decides to stow away, although how Adam could not notice a big fat lump laying in his backseat during what must have been an already long trip is a mystery better left in the junk heap of Poorly Conceived Gags.
Later, while on the road (after Harley hurls invectives at the patrons of a diner for their viewing habits — and curiously, getting away without a severe beating, as I would have liked to see), the duo is nearly run off the road by a monster truck. Not that this little life-and-death episode would sober up Harley and scare all the assholism out of him. But to the movie’s credit, people in the film does acknowledge Harley’s propensity for being a royal asshole, and he takes much verbal jabs because of it. Although I would have liked to see some physical torture thrown in for good measure, or at the very least a particularly gruesome and painful death. Alas, Davis is too in love with the Harley character to give us those things, which may also explain why Davis insists on shooting tight close-ups of Urich’s very unattractive face as a matter of course.
Not that Eric Jungmann’s Adam is any better. Written and played as a weak-willed and ineffectual nerd, Adam spends most of the film taking abuse from Harley. Neither character is particularly likeable or relatable, which makes having to stomach yet another segment of The World According to Harley especially loathsome. Later, the brainless duo picks up hitchhiker Sarah (Aimee Brooks), who is dressed in clothes that would make hookers blush. Brooks is a pretty face with a killer body, and might just be the only reason to keep watching. Later, she has sex with virgin Adam in a hotel, but curiously manages to keep all of her clothes on even during the “wild” sex. Talk about a total cop-out.
“Monster Man” has one of those completely nonsensical moments where the villain feels the need to tell the hero the whys, hows, and whens of his Master Plan. In “Monster”, this James Bondish moment goes on for about 10 minutes — or at least it seems like 10 minutes, which is doubly bad. And the funny thing is that it doesn’t even matter. Who cares why a crazy man with pizza for a face is going around running people off the road and randomly cutting off limbs? There’s absolutely no need to invent an elaborate scheme involving the occult, or throw in one of those random Plot Twists that all filmmakers post-millennium seems determined to do.
While “Monster Man” is probably billed as comedy-horror, it does get very disgusting toward the end. The thing is, “Monster” is so well-directed and lensed, and the movie clearly has some high production values, creative camerawork, and an obviously talented director, that one wonders why the movie indulged in such extraneous carnage. It just seems over-the-top, especially for a film that has played things for laughs up to this point. All of a sudden the film tries to be an actual straight horror movie and the sudden shift is too hard to accept. Imagine if “Army of Darkness” had suddenly become “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.
I’m not certain about the budget for “Monster Man”, but Davis manages some impressive visuals with what he had. The film is set in one of those Generic Redneck Countryside, which doesn’t actually exist anymore except in B-Movie Horror films. It’s the type of clich’d and archetypical setting independent filmmakers like to recycle for the simple reason that they’ve never actually been to this part of the country, and thus their only reference is other B-Movie Horror films. The movie looks surreal for the most part, with some creative filters and camera angles at play. Davis’ talent is generally better than one expects for filmmakers in this genre, although why he keeps shooting the unattractive Urich in close-ups as a mystery.
One final observation: Can you really siphon enough gasoline from one car by using a straw and a small drinking cup to run another car with? And is it really possible that someone can mistake the foul stench, not to mention taste, of sewage water for gasoline? One would think the two liquids would be easy to tell apart, but apparently not — especially when the whole sequence was concocted for the single purpose of a punch line.
Michael Davis (director) / Michael Davis (screenplay)
CAST: Eric Jungmann …. Adam
Justin Urich …. Harley
Aimee Brooks …. Sarah
Joe Goodrich …. Brother Fred
Michael Bailey Smith …. Brother Bob/Monster Man