Chris (Tim Loden) and Allison (Alana Elmer) a YouTube couple who have made a name for themselves in concocting realistic prank videos, with the latter serving as a hapless victim to her husband’s schemes. Prompting a career change due to an intended pregnancy, Chris reluctantly agrees to forgo the prankster’s lifestyle and pursue a different path. Like Milos in Srđan Spasojević excellent ‘A SERBIAN FILM’, Chris accepts a foreboding invitation from an old friend Jessie (King Chiu) to stay at his renovated church, only to find himself and his wife spending time with the eccentric David (Jonathan Craig), where a horrific course of events ensue. These include actual monstrous beings, a murderous masked slasher and even a ghost.
The Directors Justin Harding and Rob Brunner are commendable in managing Justin Harding’s passable script that has too many elements, though their excellent pacing stops the movie from becoming essentially a watered down horror film. There are clear evidentiary benefits in having a smaller cast, generally this enables a more focussed narrative and concentrated effort in fully immersing the audience.
In the case of MM, the deliberate choice to select a myriad of horror tropes works against it at times. Initially this results in a clear inability to develop one key concept or primary substantive theme – in favour of multiple tropes. Those being the aforementioned monsters, the slasher and the ghost; the inclusion of all three comes at the expense of a more cohesive narrative, especially with such a small cast and limited budget.
However, despite the issues in the multi themed narrative, the acting of both leads are exceptional. Characters in horror films go through a range of negative emotions whether it be (but not limited to) fear, despair, hopelessness and shock. Both Loden and Elmer, manage to convey a realistic sense of terror in how they react to a series of incomprehensible events that would leave them in a catatonic state before an eventual demise.
Given the dire circumstances faced by these two doomed protagonists, it is easy to draw some comparisons to Lucio Fulci’s 1981 film ‘The Beyond’. The protagonists are largely likable, and this largely compels the audience to empthasise with two ordinary people undergoing an extraordinary (and shocking) course of events. And whilst we are drawn equally to both characters, there is a clear distinction between them that sets them apart as Chris lacks the maturity of his wife, whilst Allie’s influence forces Chris to grow and better adapt. Despite the prankster origins of Chris, Loden has made this character likeable more than obnoxious and there is a genuinely convincing chemistry between the two. There are some genuinely hilarious moments courtesy of Jonathan Craig’s caretaker of sorts, who manages to boast excellent comic delivery.
The use of contemporary social media ‘influencer’ culture fosters a relatability for the audience; but that in itself is a flawed given that this setting is all the more common and contrived. It may offer a deeper message into the legitimate perils of internet fame, however the narrative doesn’t allow such nuance to be fully explored. Despite the contemporised novelty of internet celebrity, this takes a backseat to an excessive amount of brutality and carnage especially within the third act of the film. Some unexpected humour was even injected into this third act, which would no doubt have caused some audience members to chuckle as it played out, perhaps serving as a morbid palate cleanser for viewers.
With some immediacy the villain is quickly established, with the unsettling feeling of a ruse being prevalent in the audience’s mind and where luring this couple was a very deliberate and heinous act. The intensity of movie is quickly ramped up, that the audience can overlook the aforementioned flaws as they are drawn into the horrific shocking series of events.
An intermittent melancholy score throughout the film highlights the sombre tone, enhancing that exhaustive agony felt by the lead characters that we quickly become attached to. MM manages to create similar feelings of those felt by Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) in THE WICKER MAN, or Jeff Mills (Tim Daly) in the seemingly forgotten hidden gem, SPELL BINDER. Thematic references to the Deep Web, enables MM to draw these prior works of fiction into something that is often debated within the contemporary urban legends and internet lore.
MAKING MONSTERS (MM) may not have been created with the biggest budget, but for all its minor flaws it proves itself to be a slick and enjoyably frightening production. It may not be the most ground breaking horror film in recent years, but it is certainly worth a watch.