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DVD Review: Monster (2008)

The latest in a line of “mockbusters” from no-budget studio Asylum, Monster is a take on Cloverfield. If it shows anything, it’s what Cloverfield could have been if it was done completely wrong. This is a miserable, hard to watch, impossible to follow illogical mess that is as terrible as anything else Asylum has dumped onto store shelves.

The only positive to come from this junk are the performances of the two lead females. Sarah Lieving and Erin Sullivan do what they can with this hilariously pathetic script. Most of the dialogue concerns what to do with the camera, or fighting over what should or should not be filmed. Other actors plod through their roles as if they’re in a YouTube video.

Directly ripping the style of Cloverfield, the film is shot on what must be the most sensitive handicam in the world. The video artifacting is not only completely unbelievable, it always manages to kick in before or during the “monster” attacks to block the horrific CG used to create it. Viewers are never given a full view of whatever this thing is supposed to be, just random tentacles which lead you to believe it’s some kind of giant squid (that runs around on land).

Action is cut with no flow. The camera constantly stops filming at random times when things get heavy. It’s impossible to get a feel for what’s going on, and the actresses end up in various locations without a sense of time or place.

Scenes of apparent panic are unintentionally funny, as the cast lies in the streets with obviously fake added screams, yet no one else is around them. There is no sense of the scale of this “disaster” and the miserable special effects used to create planes or helicopters in the background don’t help. Buildings look completely unharmed, but the digitally added smoke coming from them is supposed to show how much damage has been caused.

A significant number of shots are lifted from Cloverfield almost exactly. Instead of the Statue of Liberty rolling down a street, you’ll see a car. Running down a series of steps looks pulled directly out of Cloverfield.

To keep with the style of filming, some of the dialogue is almost unintelligible. Background noise filters out the characters speaking on a regular basis. Given how stretched out this thing feels due to repetitive writing (it’s constant crying or whining about the camera), it’s even harder to watch. There are no subtitles or captions on the disc either.

You get what you would expect from something so desperately trying to take advantage of a hyped Hollywood release. Monster is cheap, and the title is misleading since you never see the thing. You can’t make a giant monster movie with any kind of entertainment value on a budget like this, and this serves only a resume builder for the lead actresses.

While video quality shouldn’t be spectacular to maintain the “realism,” there’s still no excuse for how terrible this looks. Interlacing problems are constant and distracting. Some edge enhancement is noticeable early. Compression artifacts are thick throughout, even when it’s not supposed to be part of the gimmicky camera effects. Any details are lost to the interlacing that follows any type of movement.

The audio is marginally better, delivering some nice, ground-shaking bass as the creature moves. Aside from the dialogue problems, there is some exceptional mixing here. Cars drive through the sound field and some surround use comes from the mild destruction. Screaming can be heard from all five speakers even though nothing on the screen shows where it should be coming from.

A behind-the scenes piece that lasts for six minutes is a bunch of random footage tossed together with intermittent commentary from David Michael Latt (writer/producer) and the actors. The piece is titled Truth Behind the Lies on the DVD case and Making of Monster during the featurette. Go figure. Some trailers offer the only other extras.

Marketing must be a fun job for the people at Asylum. How else could you come up with this cheap line on the back of the case unless you were joking around: “This film is not fictional. The footage you will see is graphic and disturbing, but it is real.” Better yet, it claims the events in the movie took place in 2005, when the film clearly labels them as 2003.

About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can follow Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.