Ever since the first genre films established rules, filmmakers have used them as a safety net. For better or worse, this ensured audience familiarity, while also simplifying the production process. Of the genres, horror films are probably the most reliant on these standardized tropes (1996’s “Scream” lampoons this), so much so that there is stagnation and limited originality. Justin Harding and Rob Brunner’s Making Monsters is really no different.
In fact, there’s a fun mix of everything — the film checks off every item in the list of a scenario where things are prone to happen. The cozy house in the countryside, a desolate setting, city folk outside their element, a friendly stranger, among many others. However, the suitable development of these characters makes us forget about much of it being something we saw before in another movie. Harding’s script makes sure the tone is first set for our relationship with these characters. After that, well, the nightmare begins, rules get broken and Making Monsters becomes a movie that’s not easy to forget.
A couple consisting of a social media prankster Chris (Tim Loden, “Bloodlines” TV series) and his always forgiving fiancée Allison (Alana Elmer) decide to take up on an offer made by an old friend Jesse (King Chiu) to spend the weekend in the house that he just bought. It’s actually a remodeled church. There’s a first time for everything and it’s not at all eerie. Visiting such a weird place is exciting!
Fresh out of a doctor’s visit the couple have decided to settle a bit. Allison is trying to get pregnant and she asks Chris to not scare her for the sake of being stress free and having a successful fertility treatment (their claim to fame is a YouTube prank show channel in which Chris is always scaring the hell out of Allison). She remarks this as they begin their trip. Once they arrive, a nice man named David (Jonathan Craig) receives them and tells them their friend cannot make it in time, but they can wait for him inside. He’s a horror makeup artist (in real life too) so this place is full of masks and statues and costumes. Extra points for making the surroundings ooze with extra creepiness.
As they get more acquainted with David, the couple starts to loosen up. They get drunk, have sex and fall asleep. It’s idyllic to say the least. That is until they wake up the next morning without their cell phones at hand, no electric power, hidden cameras abound, and no David. When they decide to do something about it, they realize this relaxing trip to the countryside is not what they were expecting.
The film progresses very slowly. Almost to a point of absolute desperation. But once the couple discovers the threat behind the mystery, there’s a revolution in the dynamics of the film. What started out as lighthearted soon becomes a horrific experience with a sadistic masked man that will stop at nothing to deliver harm. His intentions follow a pattern that’s full of surprises (is it or isn’t it a prank?). This plot element makes Making Monsters a survival horror film with few glitches and more intelligence given to its characters than you would think. They’re not the typical dumb people trying to escape.
The prankster is not the idiot often found in found footage films, the killer is not the mastermind that seems to move at great speed (although seemingly to plod along at best), and the damsel in distress is hardly a damsel. What more could I ask for? Making Monsters is not the perfect sibling to “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” but its wonderful hint at social media and technology make it a damn good selection for a double feature.