Monster! (1999)

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A small town is stuck in a curse in which every three years, the monster from the fictitious monster films made in their town, comes to life to try and destroy the town. The star of those old films, Lloyd, is the only one who knows this curse and has been stopping the monster for years. The townspeople don’t know this and think that he’s crazy. But every time he beats it, it comes back even stronger and harder to beat. So he enlists the help of his grandson to stop it this time.

 

Remember all of those cheesy 50s sci-fi B-movies with monsters that attacked towns in the middle of nowhere? Beginning of the End, Earth Vs The Spider, The Blob, etc. Well Monster! is a spoof of those. I’m not sure whether someone has just jumped on board the Scream bandwagon and thought of another horror sub-genre to give the same treatment but the result is a similar type of self-aware situation where the ‘rules’ of the genre are spelled out in big letters and the entertainment is had by spotting which genre conventions the film sticks to or goes against.

I guess having a self-aware monster movie was bound to happen eventually and Monster! doesn’t do a bad job of it to say that it was made for TV. It is hardly full of Kevin Williamson’s sharp, biting, self-referencing dialogue that Scream was but has more subtle nods and winks to the monster flicks of old. The genre clichés are acknowledged, embraced and lovingly twisted – this was never intended to be a serious film but more of a warm tribute to an era of films which will never be replicated. The premise has been well-thought out and the film runs smoothly, especially because everything that happens is so predictable if you’re vaguely familiar with the early sci-fi flicks. The characters, with the exception of Lloyd and his grandson who know what is going on, fall into the same pitfalls as their 50s counterparts. M. Emmet Walsh adds some much-needed warmth and credibility to the film as Lloyd and tries his best to help his young co-stars.

It’s during the action sequences and the moments of the film where the budget really needed to kick in where Monster! lets itself down. There’s only so much that the script and the likes of Walsh can do with the material before it needs to visualise itself on the screen. When the monster does manifest itself in the real world, there could have been a lot more done with it had the budget been able to stretch further. But as a result, everything that happens after is very low key and small in scope.

The monster itself has been designed purely as a CGI creation and I’m not sure whether they intended it to look this pathetic but the end result is not very scary and rather daft. In fact some of those old school 50s monsters put it to shame at times. Maybe they should have used some miniatures or a giant monster head for close-up shots to keep with the tone of the 50s films instead of utilising CGI.

 

Monster! is a missed opportunity to have really done something worthwhile. It’s enjoyable to watch but sorely lacks the budget needed to really embrace its great concept. Sadly, the film has never been released on DVD in the UK and as far as I can recall, has only ever been on TV once when I was able to catch it. The Sci-Fi Channel could learn a thing or two about decent TV movies if it ever managed to get hold of a copy of Monster!

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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