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DVD Review: The Crater Lake Monster

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It’s a shame David Allen’s stop-motion talents were wasted in films like Crater Lake Monster. Here’s a film that simply doesn’t care that a talented young stop-motion animator is actually trying to do something special, and instead relies on a boneheaded script so ridiculous, none of it can be taken seriously.

This is a film where a women looks up at the sky and recites the line, “Look at the stars! I’ve never seen so many!” Apparently, no one wanted to wait until nightfall to shoot this, because it is blatantly done in broad daylight. It’s careless, and the acting is no better.

Many of the roles are filled by either one-time actors or future special-effects workers. If Mark Siegel looks familiar, he should. He has done numerous films for Lucasfilm in terms of makeup and creature design. Here he plays a drunken hick, used for comedic effect that never actually becomes funny. The same goes for Michael Hoover, handling the special effects load for countless films, and still working today.

Crater Lake Monster is obviously trying to stretch its running time to make it to feature length. A staggering number of shots go nowhere, simply zooming on random forest locales. A baffling subplot involving a carryout robbery leads to an extended and pointless chase sequence.

Not even Allen’s decent animation can salvage the movie. What little budget the film has is obviously spent here, a small snippet of Allen’s work in later film’s such as Q and cleverly titled *batteries not included.

Crater Lake Monster opens with a shot over water, one of the worst clichés in all of film. Is this supposed to establish dread in the audience? If we haven’t seen what’s in the lake, what are we supposed to be scared of? Apparently, the time you’re about to waste watching this movie.

The print used for this DVD release from Rhino is in surprisingly great shape, with limited damage. Sadly, the grain has been completely removed, and the process was handled poorly. Ghosting is evident in every frame, leading to DNR artifacts on top of the usual compression. Everything is unnaturally smooth and soft, and at times, movement completely obscures faces. The ghosting problem is so awful, you can’t make out anything.

Most of the audio problems stem from the recording process, complete with echoes inside buildings, something a film with a budget could have avoided. The soundtrack, which probably would have been out of place in a movie made in the 1930s, is heavily strained on the high end. Dialogue is hard to hear through much of the film, and turning up the volume only amplifies the problem.

Extras include a trailer. That’s it.

While you could consider him a sort of successor to Ray Harryhausen (who retired in 1981), David Allen never took off or gained the respect of the man he followed. Allen was stuck working on cheaper films without a level of gloss like nearly all of Harryhausen’s films, and that’s a shame. Robot Jox was awesome.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.