Monster (2008)

Monster

Monster (2008)

Directed by Erik Estenberg

Written by

Erick Estenberg & David Michael Latt

Run Time: 90 minutes

 

In 2008 Cloverfield took the concept to new “heights” (sarcastic laughter) with an estimated budget of $30 million, a very cool monster design, and a cast of plastic 20-somethings. It went on to gross $170,602,318 worldwide, but the “visionaries” at that infamous production house The Asylum didn’t need to wait for the ticket returns. They looked into the future and rushed to give us the oh so imaginatively titled “Monster.”

Released direct-to-DVD three whole days before Cloverfield hit the theaters, Monster follows the venerable Hollywood tradition where-in seedy exploitation quickies reach audiences BEFORE the movie they are ripping off does. I haven’t been able to find a budget for this movie, so I’ll go along with a quote I found on the Internet that says most Asylum productions are made for “well under one million dollars.” This is very believable.

I’ll begin this review with the one good thing “Monster” does, which is set itself in Tokyo. Because, let’s face it. Tokyo is the right and natural World Capital of Giant Monster Attacks! Of course, this also leads to trouble. Compared to the list of impressively bizarre behemoths that have already had a go here, the piss-poor monster in this cheap little rip off seems even more pathetic.

OK, on to the “story.” Two American filmmakers wanting to make a documentary on something to do with global warming travel to Tokyo. The most important things to remember about these filmmakers is that they are young, hot, sisters, and blonds. And I’ll say this for the casting – both actresses have about the same kind of strawberry blond hair color. Kudos Asylum!

Anyways, neither knows Japanese, nor anything about the country, apparently, but they trek over to Tokyo to conduct some interviews. On their way to the first interview they talk about themselves. I cannot, for the life of me, remember any of what they said. NOTE: I saw this movie via Netflix streaming video a couple of days ago. I could, in theory, watch it again, but something inside me revolts at the thought.

Shortly after the completely inconsequential interview begins a weird, unearthly earthquake hits, with weird unearthly sounds accompanying the weird, unearthly shaking. The power goes out, and our two heroines hole up in a darkened stairwell. They take a great deal of time talking about how freaked out they are. And what will they do next. And should they keep the camera rolling? And should they ask the frightened Japanese men standing nearby where the American Embassy is?

They do indeed talk to those frightened men, although they don’t learn anything helpful. But you, the viewer, might pick up a useful bit of information. That being the meaning of the word “abunai.” Here, I’ll demonstrate:

 

RUN TIME: 12 minutes

Cute American Filmmaker: “Where’s the American embassy?”

(Weird unearthly sounds)

Panicky Japanese Bystander: “Abunai! Abunai!”

(Weird unearthly shaking)

(Camera goes black)

 

RUN TIME: 22 minutes

Cute American Filmmaker: “Where’s the American embassy?”

(Weird unearthly sounds)

Panicky Japanese Bystander: “Abunai! Abunai!”

(Weird unearthly shaking)

(Camera goes black)

 

RUN TIME: 32 minutes

Cute American Filmmaker: “Where’s the American embassy?”

(Weird unearthly sounds)

Panicky Japanese Bystander: “Abunai! Abunai!”

(Weird unearthly shaking)

(Camera goes black)

 

RUN TIME: 42 minutes

Cute American Filmmaker: “Where’s the American embassy?”

(Weird unearthly sounds)

Panicky Japanese Bystander: “Abunai! Abunai!”

(Weird unearthly shaking)

(Camera goes black)

You got it, it’s: “Abunai! Will Robinson, Abunai!” You’ve probably also picked up the surprising fact that earthquakes make video cameras conk out. This saves the producers the bother and expense of creating special effects that show us what is attacking the city. Instead we get to hear many, many, many anguished dialogues between the two sisters about how scared they are. And how they don’t know where the American embassy is. They do meet an assortment of people along the way, but I’m too resentful towards this stupid movie to tell you about it.

“OK, I can understand that” you might say, “But do they ever make it to the American Embassy?” That I will tell you – and it’s no. Instead they finally have an up close and personal encounter with the monster.

Monster

The thrilling climax of “Monster.” (Drawn from memory.)

Yes, that’s it. Three (count em, three!) stupid octopus tentacles wave around for about 4 seconds before the fricking camera goes black again. ANOTHER NOTE: Since I was watching this monstrosity (ha ha!) on streaming video I couldn’t take screen shots. At the thought of taking the time and effort to rent the DVD to get the shots, something inside me revolted. So I went online to see what I could find. Which, amazingly was almost nothing but the poster. So instead I did a quick sketch of the money shot. I gave it as much effort as it deserves.

If I seem especially bitter, you must understand that this movie is a shocking one and a half hours long. 90 minutes! 90 minutes of boring, meaningless, spectacle-free repetition. Chop 20 minutes from this thing, and it might, just might, be bearable. – If watching cute American chicks talk about how scared they are turns you on. (I’m not judging!)

“Monster” then follows the Found Footage Movie convention of implying the filmmakers die. Let me try to put a positive spin on this development; the end of their suffering is the end of our suffering.

Sean Ledden April, 2012

Afterthoughts

Watching this 90 minute endurance test wind slowly by, I had to ask myself some tough questions. Namely, “Why am I watching this?” And even as the two cute American filmmakers were asking, for the 35th time, where the American Embassy was, my mind traveled back to a formative movie-watching experience of my youth. An experience weirdly like the one I was undergoing now.

It was in the summer and I must have been about 12. Channel surfing between the 4 or 5 channels that existed in the Dayton, Ohio area at that time, I chanced upon a movie which had just begun. An unhappily married couple were driving through a drab landscape on an overcast day. I was about to change the channel (and this took some effort before the arrival of the remote. But do the young kids of today appreciate this? No!)

Anyways, my hand froze in place, because suddenly the couple was driving past an amusement park with life size dinosaur statues. My monster movie antennae started to quiver, and I sat back in the couch. Well, it was a monster movie, but sitting through that drab, dreary, super low budget S&M melodrama left permanent scars because the “pay off” when the monster finally appears was so completely inept I could hardly believe it.

I’ve never forgotten the awful thing, but I never knew its name either, because I came in just after the titles. Which brings me a great big Thank You to Dennis. Reading his review of “It’s Alive” finally solved this burning mystery. About the title I mean. As to why I sit through these awful things waiting for a monster I know will disappoint me – well, I don’t want to talk about it. And by the way, I wouldn’t watch “It’s Alive” if I were you. Or “Monster.”

Read more about Monster at

IMDB

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