The Monster Project (2017) Review
Well-made found footage film is a step in the right direction.
The Monster Project is a 2017 horror film about a recovering drug addict who takes a job with a documentary crew who plans to interview three subjects who claim to be real life monsters.
Found footage films, despite their divisive nature, are on the rise, flourishing in the horror genre where the jerky POV angles and low light filming styles allow filmmakers to tap right into audience’s primal fears. Innovation isn’t really the sub-genre’s calling card, with most just untrained actors walking around pointing cameras at scary things. It’s rare to find anything creative. Now comes the latest, Victor Mathieu‘s The Monster Project, an energetic entry in the fold, one that despite the baggage the style comes with, manages to find some fresh footing.
Devon (Justin Bruening) and Jamal (Jamal Quezaire) start the film by completing their latest YouTube clip, a night-shot hoax monster sighting film that once published, quickly gains a lot of hits. It inspires them to try and go legit and they concoct an idea for a YouTube reality show where they decide to interview actual people who believe they are monsters, like vampires and werewolves and such and post a call to action for candidates. Naturally, applicants come flooding in and Devon plans to shoot the interviews in an abandoned, rundown mansion, recruiting his ex-girlfriend Murielle (Murielle Zuker) and her new friend Bryan (Toby Hemingway) to work with them. Problem is, once they get going, they find out monsters really do exist and they bring all the horror.
Found footage seems to be a misnomer here as The Monster Project isn’t necessarily that, though the entire film is shot on handhelds and head-mounted Go-Pros from multiple cameras, giving the movie a much broader feel and openness than most single camera films in the mix. This allows for ‘cuts’ to other people and the premise actually hold ups well explaining why there is always a lens pointed at exactly what we need to see. Like nearly every film in the genre, it takes place mostly in the dark and has, by design, a YouTube feel to it, which works exactly as it should.
The subjects the crew interview are a native American ‘skinwalker’ or werewolf (Steven Flores), Shayla (Yvonne Zima), a sexually-charged, heavily-tattooed vampire, and Shiori (Shiroi Ideta) a young woman possessed by a demon. They arrive in the second half and the film does a good job setting up the inevitable, keeping an ambiguity about them for a good long time as the movie settles into interview mode, and it’s a credit to Mathieu for keeping this as compelling as it is … for when the monsters come, they come strong. It’s terrifying stuff.
What Mathieu further does is make most of the characters likable, a real feat in the genre as most of these films are populated but truly unlikable people with no depth. However that’s not the case here with plenty of productive development that creates authentic conflicts and personalities. Jamal serves as the comic relief for the first half and turns that around by the time the chaos starts. And Zuker is quite convincing as well when the terror escalates. Bryan is suffering from prescription drug addiction and battles his own demons and it is his story that matters most and for which much revolves. These are a good performances.
While the movie’s last act is shot entirely in night vision, sapping all the color, the monster effects, combining practical and CGI are very good. The action is relentless and while it’s purposefully hard to follow, with more shadow than light, it’s always compelling, though it does wear and the lack of normal light is an issue. The ending comes out of nowhere and doesn’t quite hold up, swapping lore and betraying a bit of the great setup, but there are still good things happening here, a pulse-pounding terror, it is far better than the average found footage flick with some smart scares. That alone makes The Monster Project one to watch.
The Monster Project (2017) Review
Movie description: The Monster Project is a 2017 horror film about a recovering drug addict who takes a job with a documentary crew who plans to interview three subjects who claim to be real life monsters.
Director(s): Victor Mathieu
Actor(s): Yvonne Zima, Justin Bruening, Toby Hemingway