FEBRUARY 5, 2008
Those of you who are familiar with The Asylum will appreciate the following anecdote. If you’re not, let me provide a quick explanation: The Asylum is a direct to DVD company that specializes in releasing quickie ripoffs of high-profile genre films. Some of their titles include Alien vs. Hunter, Transmorphers, and Snakes On A Train. They are usually released on DVD within a week of the real movie’s theatrical release, and very dumb people will often mistake them for the real deal. Their latest is Monster, which is a ripoff of Cloverfield (which was at one point titled Monstrous, so says the internet).
Anyway I knew I was going to be watching it tonight, because I had rented it last week and was running out of time on my week rental. So it was fitting that it was today that I stumbled upon a page in which the "writer" was copying whole chunks of my reviews and posting them as her own. An email and a blatant example pasted on the page has resulted in the site being deleted by the owner. You can still find it thanks to Google cache, but I thought it was kind of sad that the author would rather just abandon their efforts rather than admit to plagiarism. Oh well. Rest assured, if anyone else wants to write their own similar site, go for it! I'd love to know I'm not the only one doing this insane job. Just do it with your own thoughts. And don’t call it Horror Movie A Day (this person’s was simply Horror A Day – the title is now apparently eligible for use!).
This brings us to Monster, which, like all Asylum films, is a copy of another film, with superfluous changes and a much lower budget. This one is set in Tokyo, but otherwise the structure and plot are the same – some attractive folks are shooting on a consumer camera and end up making a documentary about a monster attacking a giant city. Instead of a bunch of hipsters, our characters are just two incredibly cute Americans who planned on making a documentary about global warming. The fact that the one scene in which they do this is almost entirely inaudible is sort of a blessing in hindsight – it would have been a shame if they had made their entire documentary, then went to edit it and discovered that they should have invested 60 bucks in a boom mike.
To be fair, this is actually the one thing that Monster has over Cloverfield – it actually LOOKS like it was shot with a consumer camera by a non-camera operator. Cloverfield was clearly shot with HD cameras by someone who knew what he was doing (the fact that the character is ESTABLISHED as not wanting to film the stuff since he didn’t know how makes this fact even more obvious). Then again, in Cloverfield, it was forgivable since the effects were top notch. Here, the bad CG jets and monster (who we never see in its entirety) are still noticeable no matter how many filters and jerky camera movements they use to try to hide them.
Speaking of the filters, I wish that the makers of this film (and the otherwise superior Poughkeepsie Tapes) would treat the audience with a bit of intelligence when it comes to presenting their footage. By now, anyone renting a DVD has probably used a digital camera (or watched home movies on one at least), and thus know exactly what camera errors look like. None of these following images are possible to achieve with a digital camera, no matter how broken it is, without adding filters and the like on it:
Come on now. The only “error” that looks like a legitimate malfunction is near the very end when some black horizontal bars sweep over the bottom of the image (a dirty tape will cause this).
Worse, though, is the editor’s outstandingly stupid decision to cut to blackness for anywhere from 1 to 5 seconds throughout the entire film (if you cut these moments out, the film would probably be 5 minutes shorter). Not only does the image go out, but the sound does as well. It is so goddamn annoying you’ll probably want to put some light background music on while you watch the film – you will never get used to the abrupt cut of the soundtrack.
Another odd copy from Cloverfield is the date – the “earthquake” takes place on January 18th (Cloverfield’s release date, and yet another fake title – 1-18-08). Of course, this is due to The Asylum having to make their film based on the same knowledge all of us had in the months leading up to the real film, which wasn’t much due to all of the secrecy surrounding it. But the year is said to be 2003. Why, I have no idea (Tokyo was hit with an earthquake in July of 2005, but I guess that would be too far removed from Cloverfield to warrant consideration), but this leads to numerous anachronisms, particularly the characters’ hope that their footage ends up on Youtube, a site about 2 years away from inception in ‘reality’.
I also enjoy how difficult it is for them to find anyone who can understand English when every street sign, restaurant hours, business name, etc is in English instead of Japanese. Little Tokyo is not Tokyo! This is made even more hilarious in the scene where one sister says “Look, we can see the whole city from here”, and we just have to take her word for it, since, for obvious reasons, the camera focuses on the girl instead of the alleged city view.
Now all of these things I can forgive if the movie itself was more enjoyable. But it’s not. The girls are decent enough actresses, but I still didn’t care about their fate (which is sort of foregone anyway), and the movie was an endless bore to boot. At one point I figured it was almost over, only to discover I wasn’t even at the 40 minute mark yet. That’s kind of a problem when you’re making an escapist monster movie. The attack scenes are too quick to leave much of an impact, and there are long stretches where the girls just walk around sort of dazed (one even does a little confession video, shades of Blair Witch).
So it’s a movie that I expected to be bad fun, but it was just a bad bore. A shame really. I can't call it crap, because I knew exactly what I was in for (nothing), and if you have yet to be exposed to The Asylum's brazen yet somewhat endearing forgeries, it's as good a place as any to start. But if you haven’t been convinced this one is a cheap quickie without any merit to it at all, look no further than the film’s one extra feature, a 5 min making of that’s about 3 minutes film footage and this following credit.
What say you?