Today’s feature is a television movie from 2001: How To Make A Monster.
How To Make A Monster was written and directed by George Huang, who is best known for Trojan War and the Kevin Spacey dark comedy Swimming With Sharks.
The cinematographer for How To Make A Monster was Steven Finestone, who also shot Swimming With Sharks for George Huang, and worked as a camera operator on films like The Philadelphia Experiment, Saturday the 14th, Battle Beyond The Stars, and Humanoids From The Deep.
The editors on How To Make A Monster were Daniel T. Cahn (The Young and The Restless, Darkman II) and Kristina Trirogoff, who was an assistant editor on Phone Booth, Collateral, Heat, McHale’s Navy, and Gone Fishin’.
The musical score for How To Make A Monster was composed by David Reynolds, who has worked in the music departments for such movies as Rounders, The Big Kahuna, Species, Entrapment, and Wanted.
The special effects on How To Make A Monster were provided by the Stan Winston Studios, and the creature design is credited to Stan Winston himself (Jurassic Park, Small Soldiers, Congo, Lake Placid, Predator 2, Leviathan, Terminator 2).
The cast of How To Make A Monster includes Clea DuVall (Argo, The Faculty, She’s All That, But I’m A Cheerleader), Steven Culp (Bosch, JAG), voice actor Jason Marsden, Tyler Mane (X-Men, Troy), Karim Prince (Power Rangers Zeo), and Danny Masterson (That ’70s Show).
The plot of How To Make A Monster centers on a video game development team who is hired to revamp a horror game that has been panned by test audiences. They are given four weeks to create a new monster and overhaul the game, with a $1 million bonus on the line for whoever makes the game the scariest. However, the monster AI they develop proves to be a little more effective than they had planned.
How To Make A Monster features a cameo by b-movie actress Julie Strain as herself, doing motion capture for the fictitious video game featured in the movie. She is best known for such movies as Heavy Metal 2000, Sorceress, and Out For Justice.
One of the monsters depicted in the game featured in the movie is clearly modeled after pikachu, the popular species of electric mouse from Pokemon. However, the adorable icon is re-imagined as a monster worth of Doom.
The monster itself in How To Make A Monster actually looks pretty cool, and becomes more of a gory patchwork of slain characters as the movie progresses.
As you would imagine, all of the sequences that take place “in game” have aged pretty poorly, given how quickly graphic technologies for video games have developed over the years. However, I think it is kind of charming, and feels like a sort of period piece as a result. For video game fans, there are certainly enough nods to the audience and ample nostalgia for them get a kick out of re-watching this movie now.
However, there are certainly some huge drawbacks to this movie. The characters are all very simple stereotypes that are far from flattering to the population of gamers, and people in the tech industry in general. Even worse, the resulting tone as a whole is at best bluntly misanthropic. The conclusion of the story dives that home even further, as it is very downbeat and depressing (and not nearly as clever as it thinks it is). Interestingly enough, it reminded me a lot of the mediocre ending of Swimming With Sharks, an earlier work by the same writer/director, which has the same sort of tone and resolution.
On the whole, I am pretty conflicted about How To Make A Monster. The creature is definitely the reason to watch, but the writing and characters that surround it can’t really be avoided, and they are all some combination of creepy, disgusting, or vile. The preachy message about greed and corporatism isn’t necessarily wrong by any means, but the way it is executed is far overblown. You’ll also probably figure out that the title of the film has a double meaning as the soon as all of the characters are established, or at least by the end of the first act.
If you really like Stan Winston effects or early horror PC games, I think this is worth checking out. For everyone else, I think it is a toss-up. The writing isn’t any worse than most slasher movies at the end of the day, and this is probably a tad better than Evolver when it comes to killer video game movies. However, Evolver is way more fun in my opinion, which is what this movie is missing most overall.