Directed by: Victor Mathieu
Cast: Toby Hemingway, Justin Bruening, Murielle Zuker
I’ve said it before, and will do so again, no doubt: found footage films scare me. Not in the traditional “holy crap” manner, but in the “what the hell am I getting myself into” sense. There are more misses than hits in this sub-genre, so every found footage flick is basically a gamble on the part of consumers. One of the most recent found footage films to hit the masses is The Monster Project, and everything about the picture embodies my aforementioned thoughts on found footage.
On one hand, The Monster Project relies heavily on a staggering amount of genre tropes. On the other hand, it tries really hard to be creative in certain spots, and it does give us the atypical found footage twist (keep in mind these films don’t rely on twists to shock in the final act, they utilize the “big reveal” to wrap the story). The Monster Project is definitely respectable in a number of areas, really, it’s just that there are more than enough weaknesses within the production to prevent it from stealing your hearts.
The story sees a group embark on a mission to track down and film real, living monsters. There’s a vampire, a demon and a skin-walker, all brought together to be filmed for a small but spirited little project. But when these three get together in a building that itself feels like a condemned, on-its-last-leg nightmare, things get as outrageously violent as you’re likely to expect. Who will make it out? And how does a film of this nature offer a twist? You’ll have to see it for those answers.
There are some solid performances and a small handful of performances that feel a bit too forced to properly mesh with the more relaxed performers, but that happens. Especially when you’re young in the business. Technically speaking, things are pretty well-executed, but if there’re any major setbacks to the flick, they would be the refusal to make an attempt at originality, and the terrible CGI (though there are a couple of really cool creature designs)… oh, and the weird, annoying ghoul face that pops up any time a potentially frightening moment is about to occur. The scares would have been infinitely more successful had that terrible insertion been omitted, and in reality, I can’t begin to understand the motivation behind their existence. When you see that face it’s like someone popping up with a sign that says, “HERE’S THE SCARY PART!” It’s just not a good look for the film, in the slightest.
There was a lot of potential behind The Monster Project. Director Victor Mathieu seems to have a lot of cool ideas to scare viewers, it just feels like he – and editor Phillip Sebal – didn’t really know how to make fear tangible and effective in the found footage format. It’s too bad – this could have been a four-star film had the holes in the story and production been plugged before making its way to fans across the map.