A computer game company hires three eccentric programmers to complete an unfinished game called Evilution and their objective is to make it the scariest game ever with the promise of a million dollar bonus to the one who does the best work. On a dark and stormy night, an electrical surge brings the motion-capture monster suit to life and it becomes controlled by the computer AI. The monster then begins to stalk and kill the team throughout the lab as if they were actually playing the game.
Part of a host of old AIP drive-in films that were remade under the ‘Creature Feature’ label headed up by effects man Stan Winston, How to Make a Monster shares the name of its 1958 predecessor but the comparisons stop there. It begs the question of why you’d remake something if you’re going to change the entire story and characters. Even ‘name recognition’ doesn’t matter here because I’m sure anyone in their teens, twenties or thirties has never heard of the original, let alone seen it.
How to Make a Monster sits itself firmly in the ‘people trapped in a confined space being killed off one-by-one by a monster’ camp and it brings nothing new to the table whatsoever apart from the variable monster. We’ve all seen this formula in action plenty of times before and no doubt we’ll see it in action plenty of times in the future too so we know exactly what to expect. The predictable story does nothing new with the material and clearly never has intention to do so.
There are some underlying messages about greed, violent video games and the like but I’m not sure whether the film was for and against them. Besides which, video games don’t make psychos, they’re just a scapegoat for our broken society. But I’m not going into that argument in a review about some B-movie! The problem with this is that the game itself, Evilution, looks like something out of the 16-bit era. It’s an underlying problem which films that create video games to use in the story face. Given how quickly the video game industry moves nowadays and how graphics have improved tenfold in the matter of a few years, the jerky sprites and crappy graphics look dated as soon as the film has been released. I think to the more recent Stay Alive for a similar issue, where the in-film video game looks like something no one in their right mind would give the time of day to. Plus how many video game companies do you know of that only have three designers working on a game? The credits for the latest Call of Duty games are longer than some old Hollywood blockbusters.
A decent cast has been assembled for this one and the three main computer geeks come off as likeable enough for you to care if they survive or not. The best part of the film is actually before the monster comes to life as the geeks argue and trade amusing barbs with each other. Tyler Mane (Sabretooth from X-Men and Michael Myers in the Halloween remake) is the pick of the bunch as the less-than-friendly Hardcore who likes sharp weapons a little too much for my liking.
When the monster does finally show up, the film shifts into familiar territory with predictable consequences and all leading up to a rather naff finale involving VR helmets and swords. The monster looks fairly creepy but it’s not given enough time to work its magic and it is nowhere near as menacing as it should. The monster kind of sums this film up – starts off looking ok but you don’t enough of what you want to see and too much of the stuff you don’t. With a bit more work and polishing it could have been so much better.
How to Make a Monster isn’t a bad time waster and it’s certainly a pretty good effort for a TV movie, punching above its weight fairly respectably. It’s just that we’ve seen it all done before and done better. Alien-clones work better with aliens, not computer games come to life!