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How To Make A Monster

How To Make A Monster

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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).

makeamonster1The 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.

makeamonster4The reception to How To Make A Monster was pretty negative: it currently holds a 4.4 rating on IMDb, and a 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

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.

makeamonster3However, 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.

Bargain Bin(ge) New Orleans: The Mushroom

Welcome to the latest installment of the Bargain Bin(ge), where I cover used DVD stores from around the country and the various movies I have plundered from them. This past weekend, I took a trip down to New Orleans: one of the most unique and interesting cities in the United States. Of course, I managed to take some time to dig into a couple of local used media spots between enjoying the cajun food and the sights.

nolaFirst up is an old haunt of mine from my college days at Tulane University: The Mushroom.

mushroom10The Mushroom is sort of an all-purpose alternative interest center: part head shop, part record store, part eclectic emporium. It sits on the corner of Tulane University’s campus, on the second floor of a building that houses both a college bar and one of the most delicious crepe restaurants in the country. Of course, the Mushroom also boasts a significant used DVD section, which I have spent a lot of time digging in over the years.

The most distinctive aspect of The Mushroom, much like New Orleans itself, is the atmosphere. Just check out some of the art on the exterior walls:

mushroom5 mushroom9 mushroom6Did I mention it is also a head shop? In any case, I love the unique flair of the place, both on the inside and the outside. The DVD section is specifically surrounded by t-shirts branded with classic horror and sci-fi movies, which is a nice touch. I picked up a Godzilla shirt there a couple of years ago that I absolutely love, and I was tempted to dig through to find another one. Maybe next time. mushroom8The DVD prices in The Mushroom could be a bit better. However, I came out with 5 dvds (6 movies) for about 15 dollars, which isn’t too bad. The biggest problem is that they usually know when they have something rare or obscure, and they mark them up accordingly. You aren’t going to find any steals here in general, but you will almost certainly find something interesting.

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Shocker / The People Under The Stairs

So, on to the movies I picked up at The Mushroom. First, there is a Wes Craven double feature of “Shocker” and “The People Under The Stairs.” Neither of these are exactly considered highlights in Craven’s career, but they both have fan followings for sure. Also, I haven’t seen either of them, nor did I have copies of them previously. I recently missed a screening of “The People Under The Stairs” at Gateway Film Center, so I’m going to specifically look forward to giving that a watch.
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Iron Eagle

The next find is a bit of a forgotten flick, mostly because of how overshadowed it was by a better film with a similar concept. Years before “Volcano” vs “Dante’s Peak” and “Armageddon” vs “Deep Impact,” there was “Top Gun” vs “Iron Eagle.” I think that this is the first time I have run across a DVD copy of this film, and this is another one I haven’t seen before. I might do a back to back of this and “Top Gun” as a sort of retrospective comparison. Speaking of which, I’ve been meaning to do that with “Catch-22” and “M.A.S.H” too. Keep your eyes peeled.

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How To Make A Monster

Here is a movie I considered early on as a possibility for Killer Robot Week, but I knocked it out partially because I couldn’t find a copy. So, I was understandably pretty surprised to find a copy of it in the wild. “How To Make A Monster” is a television movie from 2001 that surprisingly features effects work from the legendary creature creator Stan Winston, who certainly had no business working on TV that late into his legendary career. I’ll be interested to see if there is some reason for his involvement, but I’ll save that for a proper review. What is more important to note is that this is a television movie from 2001 about a killer video game, so it is bound to have awful CGI and dated references to controversy over violence in video games. Sounds like a good time to me! The writer/director, George Huang, also did the movie “Swimming With Sharks,” which is basically “Entourage” without the central cast or comedic elements (so, better). It features Kevin Spacey as the intensely abusive and reprehensible super-agent character, and you can just feel how much Piven pulled his character of Gold from the performance. I haven’t seen it in a few years, but I liked it on the initial watch.

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Predator 2

When it comes to sequels failing to live up to the potential of their concepts, “Predator 2” has to be towards the top of that list. Moving the stealthy alien hunter from the jungle into an urban environment sounds like a winner, but then again, so did the idea of combining Predators and Xenomorphs on screen. I haven’t seen this flick in years, but I don’t recall hating it when I saw it years ago. I was just…disappointed. I’ll be interested to see what this movie is like for me now, because it has been at least a decade since I last saw it.

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Virtual Assassin

Here a flick I don’t actually know anything about: “Virtual Assassin” or “CyberJack.” From what I can tell, it is a “Die Hard” knock-off with a sci-fi, high-tech twist. The director, Robert Lee, primarily works as an assistant director, and has been in the crew of such flicks as Uwe Boll’s masterpieces “House of the Dead” and “Alone in the Dark.” The film stars Michael Dudikoff, who is best known as Cannon’s “American Ninja.” He’s had one hell of a b-movie career, and his presence was enough to sell me on giving this thing a shot.

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