Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Project Terrible: Monster

Welcome back to Project Terrible! Tonight's submission comes to me from Steve Miller, Writer of Stuff, and it's...

Hey, it's Cloverfie...oh. Oh. No. It's the Asylum's Monster.

Okay, let's get this out of the way. Monster is rather obviously the Asylum's answer to Cloverfield, which is basically a found-footage version of a Godzilla movie. Giant monster attacks, people run and scream, that sort of thing. The Asylum of course had to do their own version of the film, and evidently they got the Godzilla connection too, as they decided to do Cloverfield one better and set their film in Japan.

Here's a summar...no, you know what? Here's the entire plot of the movie. Two sisters, Erin and Sarah, go to Japan to film a documentary about global warming. While they conduct an interview, an earthquake occurs. They wander around for a while, discover it's actually a giant monster instead of an earthquake, and spend the rest of the film running and crying a lot. Then they die, which the film pretty much telegraphs from the get-go. The end.

There is nothing to this movie. It's about an hour and twenty minutes long and there is no plot beyond the above. The entire movie is two sisters running through Tokyo, pointing their camera mostly at each other, and crying about how they're scared. It's probably what would happen if you found a film shot by two girls in the middle of a monster attack, which is, of course, extremely boring. I don't have a lot to talk about here, so I'm just going to put a list of the comments I wrote down while watching the movie below and call it a review.
  • I'm sorry...they went to Japan to film a documentary on global warming, and they start out the film with what's basically a vacation video of sorts...but they focus entirely on just random city streets? Not major landmarks? Not tourist spots? Thrill to fascinating shots of the Japanese businessman walking by looking stressed out!
  • Also, some faces were blurred in the early parts of the film, but after a little while that totally stops. What's up with that?
  • These two are documentary filmmakers...who have evidently never heard of a lavalier microphone. Or any microphone, for that matter. I don't mind if you're saying they're just hobbyists, but I'm fairly sure that hobby filmmakers who are willing to spend the money to go to Japan to make a film would at least try to make sure their audio was audible. "Just speak loudly." Yeah, no.
  • Later, they're interviewing a diplomat and you can hear emergency sirens over all the speech. Wouldn't you stop for a moment and pick up afterwards? I mean, I'm pretty sure the diplomat would actually know that you do that. I'm pretty sure he'd want his answers to be heard, so he'd just pause and let the sirens pass, then pick up.
  • Also, do ambulances and such sound the same in Japan as in America? Maybe they do, I guess.
  • And another found footage movie where someone asks someone else "did you see something?" and they say they didn't, but no one checks the camera footage to see if the "something" was recorded.
  • "Who knows what their culture thinks is acceptable?"
    • I'm pretty sure that mentioning that you think you saw something in the middle of an explosion is acceptable just about anywhere, as long as you don't start making Godzilla jokes.
    • Didn't you do any kind of research on Japan before deciding to go make a documentary there?
  • "You're still filming this?" Yeah. Yeah, she is. Why is she still filming this? How many people have to yell at this jerk before she turns the camera off and stops filming traumatized people? See, that's the problem with found footage movies. The "heroes" have to be jerks who'll stand there filming anything no matter what happens or who tells them no.
  • This guy they meet in the basement has no actual emotion in his voice. He is awful. He's just rattling off words.
  • There's no consistency of character in this. First Erin doesn't want to film, to the point of shouting at Sarah to put the camera down. Then for no reason, she's okay with it and films Sarah's interview with the American guy they meet in the basement. Then, she's really gung-ho about it and calls back to Sarah to make sure she's filming when another "earthquake" hits. There's no transition here, it's just "no, don't film!" to "make sure you film!" without any reason for the change. And then, after the quake, she's back to "Are you seriously trying to film this?"
  • Additionally, Sarah at first is really skeptical that Erin saw something in the middle of the fireball, but then she's the one that says she feels something moving under the floor and Erin seems skeptical. Pick a side!
  • Why is she trying to do a dramatic circle shot? Why would you even think of something like that? Just point the camera at the wreckage! Your sister's horrified face is not the main attraction here!
  • And the guy just kind of dies during a point where the camera cuts out. Sure would be nice to see any of the action, though I guess since he was filming we probably wouldn't have seen him die anyway.
  • Why are they constantly filming themselves? If they're trying to film the story of the earthquake, shouldn't they be filming what's happening? Or finding people to interview? Or something other than constant shots of themselves?
  • I don't want to compliment the other Asylum found footage movie I've watched too much, but at least The Amityville Haunting understood that the cameraperson should try to film the events going on, not just himself or people reacting to things going on. I'm going to guess that the reason Monster didn't do that is simply that it didn't have the budget to actually show a ruined Tokyo or many effects shots, so they kept filming one of the actresses looking like she saw something horrible rather than filming the something horrible that she supposedly saw. That's the point at which I would say "maybe we're aiming for too big an event here" and rescript the movie to be about something that I had the budget to actually show, myself.
  • "Bombs didn't go off here, so where are the people?" Yes, because in the middle of a general terrorist attack where bombs have supposedly been going off all over the city, it would be surprising for government forces to evacuate civilians even from areas that hadn't been directly targeted...yet.
  • Finally. Like 20 minutes of footage (who knows how long in actual story time) after they first argue about Erin seeing something in the midst of the fire, Erin suggests Sarah should look at the tape, and Sarah does. Finally. They did have tons of downtime before this point, but it's only now that she has that bright idea?
  • And she films herself saying "I don't know what to say," and cuts. She literally stopped filming, took out the current tape, put the old tape in, watched the explosion on it, stopped the tape, took the tape out, put the current tape in, turned the camera at herself, started recording, and only then realized she had no idea what she was going to say, said so, and turned the tape off. Who would do that?
  • One minor compliment--Sarah and Erin do a good job generally of looking at the person who's actually filming when conversing with them, rather than looking at the camera. That does help it seem more real.
  • So at one point, Erin very intelligently proposes that they take the tapes they have so far, and lose the camera since it and the presumed additional tapes that no one is ever shown holding are preventing them from traveling light and might cause them trouble. Sarah says that they need to document this, and Erin just kind of gives up and says, "Okay, then we have to film everything. Even if one of us gets hurt, we need to film that." Why? Why not just film things that seem important?
  • I really don't understand why there are so many film glitches in films like these. Do cameras really break up that much when people are running around or when there are explosions in the distance? I understand a little, but their camera is cutting out or getting all distorted all the time. It's really annoying.
  • Okay, so there's a really brief shot of the monster's tendril in the distance, and then the camera just focuses on Sarah's face, while she cowers. You know, if you're really intent on capturing evidence of this stuff, you should point that camera at the monster! I mean, you can still cower and hide yourself, just point the camera in that general direction while you do it!
  • Why does Erin keep asking Sarah what the Japanese people are saying as they run, when:
    • Sarah speaks barely any Japanese, and
    • It's very obvious that they're saying something along the lines of "run along with us, you stupid Americans! It's dangerous here!"
  • It's sure nice to be watching a film where I can't hear like 75% of the dialogue because they wanted to be realistic and keep all the wind noise and stuff in. Not that the dialogue I can hear is good, mind.
  • You've got your sister there to film for you, and she is in fact doing just that, so why would you make her hand you the camera so you can film yourself?
  • Another minor compliment--the dialogue is horrid, but Erin and Sarah do a great job with expressing emotion. Considering that the film spends so much time staring at their faces, they actually are very good at staying in character constantly and showing subtle emotional shifts. They aren't just screaming and such--they show more subtle fear and worry and hope and care. The film stares at their faces too much, but at least they do a good job while it's doing so.
  • You know what else is weird about this film? Whenever there's a cut, it goes to black for a really long time. I get that you're saying the tape cut out or something sometimes, but someone edited this, right? Couldn't the supposed editor have trimmed out the blank spots?
  • "Mizuchi is dead water. It is a creature that comes out when the water is dead." No it isn't. It's either a water dragon, a water spirit of some kind, or another word for the kappa. I don't see anywhere in mythology that it is used as some kind of punishment for "killing water." If anything, it seems to be potentially bad whether the water is mistreated or not.
  • There are a few genuinely good moments in this. I liked Erin's insistence on filming a a video goodbye--while it's something that's been done time and again in found footage films, it was a nice one as she just tells people who she was, what she liked, and that she's happy she's with her sister. It's a nice kind of "upbeat as possible in the face of the inevitable" moment. The bit where the sisters find the Japanese woman who gave them shelter, who is cradling her dying grandfather, is nicely done as well. It's a pretty powerful performance from the woman, who cradles the dying man and insists on staying with him out of grief. Another kind of interesting bit is when the girls run into a Tokyo news crew. They actually resist the urge to cut to footage from the camera crew, and it's kind of funny having the two groups filming each other and trying to get answers out of each other.
  • It's irritating how they do the "talk louder and slower" thing frequently when talking to Japanese people. It's kind of that "people who don't know our language must be hard of hearing" thing that's really very offensive.
  • Weird end credits sequence where they try to turn the whole thing into a lesson on global warming. Was the Asylum really trying to make a global warming horror movie here? It's like they saw Birdemic and thought, "Hey! That worked absolutely horribly for them! Let's do it too...but only in our intro and end credits, somehow making it even stupider!"
  • Oddly, Sarah Lieving's name is "Sarah Lynch," like the character, in the credits. But Erin's name in the credits is her actual "Erin Sullivan," not "Erin Lynch." Did someone goof? 
  • And there's a character named Mizuchi. Like the monster's name. Are they crediting the person who did the monster's roar, or did they accidentally name a character the same as the monster?
This was astoundingly dull. It wasn't among the worst films I've seen, but it was definitely among the most boring. While it isn't too bad in a technical sense short of some bad effects shots, it's just a poor idea for a film and badly executed at that. We never really see any of what's going on because the girls constantly film each other, which, as documentary filmmakers (even hobbyists), they should know is not the important part of what's going on. This utterly fails to remain true to its premise, and utterly fails to be an entertaining movie.

Well, that's really all I can say. For Al's benefit, because I know he loves her work so much, here's a special Sarah Lieving in Monster photo gallery to bring us to a close.


  1. I'm pretty sure I saw this a while back, probably when it came out.

    It amuses me that people still try to analyze and review Asylum movies. Your best bet is to leave reality in another room and embrace the absurdity. It's the Asylum, it's not going to be fantastic, and it may very well suck. If you accept that going in, you can't be (too) disappointed.

    At least that's my secret for enjoying their movies.

    1. Well, in this case, I reviewed it because someone gave it to me as part of Project Terrible. :-P

      Overall...an Asylum movie is still a movie. I review and analyze them for two reasons. First, not everyone knows about every film, or every film studio, and this is a film review blog--the idea here is to let people know about the quality of films so that if they're browsing Netflix or something, they know what's worth spending their time on. But that's not the only reason I review things. I don't think the Asylum is hopeless. I've actually seen films of theirs that I think show some potential, if they can get through some of their common mistakes. They could make decent or even good films, and I'd like to try to help them do so. I've actually had one of their directors comment on one of my reviews and thank me for the critique and comments, and I'd like to think that in the future, my comments might help him make a better film. It may or may not happen, but that's a reason to review them anyway.

      As far as watching their films...I agree to an extent with your strategy for some of them. Ballistica was hilariously entertaining for those who enjoy action films that just don't quite work, as was The Three Musketeers and The Seven Adventures of Sinbad. Clash of the Empires (formerly Age of the Hobbits before the Tolkien estate had none of that) was actually a pretty decent film under the surface, just with a few notable flaws that could be overcome if they took a bit more time.

      But others...just no. I don't care if you turn off your brain and embrace the absurdity, some of these films are just dull. Monster is one of those films. I point out the constant shots of the actresses instead of events going on because those shots make the film boring. And boring films aren't things that even bad movie buffs want to watch.

      Two types of people visit blogs like this...those who want to know if a film is good, and those who want to know if a film is entertainingly bad. Both of them need a review to judge that. So, there you go. Just my reasons for what I do.

    2. Asylum movies are funny.

      That's why I review them.