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Posted on Jan 5th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under RF Cinema, How To Make A Monster, HTMAM, movies, video game movies, discussion

I hope everyone had a great holiday and new year's. To close out 2017, RF Cinema has been given the gift of its first user request, in the form of 2001's How To Make A Monster. To recap, this may be the "worst" movie on the list so far, but it was described to me as so bad, it's good. Does it meet that expectation? Does it stand with other great terrible horror B-movies? Read on, my friends, and find out.

As usual, I'll refrain from spoilers in the article, but the discussion thread here may include them from this movie and any others we've featured to this point.

First of all, a big shout out to GrayGhost81 for suggesting the film, and for helping me get a copy. Little did I know, this movie is super obscure. Aside from IMDB I had a hard time finding it at all, and the DVD copy I eventually found on eBay still hasn't arrived. In his defense, he didn't realize how hard this one was to track down when he made the recommendation. So apologies to anyone who tried unsuccessfully to hunt this one down. Judging from the discussion thread though, there were a couple people who managed to pull it off.

As HTMAM opens, we're treated to some painfully 90s-quality CG that is revealed to be a scene in a new game in development. It's being shown to a group of kids in a focus group and the developer's intern Laura is brought in to ask them to give their opinions. They have no qualms about trashing it. It's supposed to be scary, but the kids just laugh about it and make fun of it. This prompts the head executive in charge (who seems like she represents the publisher, not that it matters) to fire the entire dev team. All four of them.

This is all you need to make a triple-A video game in 30 days

She brings in a new executive producer, who convinces her the best course of action is to hire a trio of coders he knows who call themselves Hardcore, Bug, and Sol. The three new programmers look like they would be stereotypes, but that's not exactly the right word. I'd say they were more like half stereotype, half caricature. Hardcore is a beefy biker ex-con type who I thought would be too macho for his own good, but he spends a surprising amount of time thinking about the game and never shows the slightest interest in hitting on Laura. Instead, he specifically asks her if she's a spy for another game developer. The other two are a little more traditional. Bug kind of looks like Rick Moranis and acts like a spaz most of the time. I was particularly fond of his introduction interview near the beginning of the movie. Sol describes himself as being named for Solomon (yes, that Solomon) and is the most collected of the bunch, but is clearly as full of himself as the others.

Pretty much the whole first half of How To Make A Monster is a checklist of every bad cliche you've ever heard about horror movies and video games. Bad one liners ("scary is as scary does"), lame homages to other films, Hardcore trying to be physically intimidating. Bug being super awkward and running off to lock himself in the bathroom after failing to muster the courage to ask Laura out. People using fake tech terminology, execs asking them to say it again "in English," expectations that are completely unreasonable to anyone who knows absolutely anything about how games are made. Even things like gratuitous nudity that's more goofy than titillating and the cute female lackey that everyone underestimates, HTMAM has it all. And if that weren't enough, there's one full scene with a P.O.D. song playing in the background. Although I'm willing to admit that for some that may be a positive.

Yes, you'll see her without clothes on. No, it's not all that enjoyable.

Once the halfway point comes along and people start dying, things get more entertaining. A power surge causes the AI to start taking control of the game and directing the motion capture suit, because that's how electricity works. When the cast stop trying to interact as people and the movie just goes into horror mode it's pretty fun. The thing that surprised me most about this film was the fact that Stan Winston did the effects, and while this monster may not be on the same level as the Terminator, he did a pretty darn good job with what he had. Once it takes physical form it's obvious the effects are practical rather than digital. There aren't really any inventive deaths, but the way in which the monster pieces itself together with each kill is interesting, and watching it move around in physical space is more impressive than this movie probably deserves.

There's a lot of neat details to the creature design that can be appreciated in the few scenes where it's lit up.

For me, I wasn't really able to enjoy the bad horror movie aspect of HTMAM until the latter half. I've spent too many years seeing bad, if not outright damaging, representations of video games and the people who enjoy them to be able to brush them off, even if they're packaged in something that clearly isn't meant to be taken seriously. To be fair, I admit this is mostly a me problem, and once it started being a B-movie horror flick I was able to enjoy it for what it was.

Others who watched agreed that the key to enjoying HTMAM is to not think about it too much. As FatherJack stated, "Utter rubbish BUT a very enjoyable utter rubbish." GrayGhost agreed that the nude scene was pretty groan-inducing. "It made me cringe so hard that I actually threw my back out." Some of the game footage is pretty laughable as well. At the start of the film, the "monster" the original programmers had put into the game doesn't look like it could scare a bunny rabbit. It looked more like something you'd see in those behind the scenes featurettes where the digital effects team shows the bizarre things that come out of a computer when a random variable is changed in the code. There's a brief flash of a bunch of enemies later on that look like evil skinny Pikachu monsters. They're a bit easy to miss if you're not paying attention, but they're pretty great when you spot them.

"There's no plug-in for virtua-goggles, cyber gloves...weak!"

In the end, How To Make A Monster turned out to be something I hated half in a bad way and half in a good way. The cliches are what I would expect from a movie a decade older and I couldn't let go of my bitter old gamer self to get past them. Aside from that, I can totally see why others would get a kick out of it. If I were watching this with a group of friends, mercilessly making fun of it, I have no doubt it'd be a great way to waste an hour and a half. For that reason, I'm glad I still have a DVD copy (hopefully) headed my way, and I'm glad to have it as part of this series.

What did you think of HTMAM? Let us know in the comments below or the discussion thread here.

For the new year I thought it'd be fun to go with a new genre to kick off 2018. With that in mind, I've decided to go with a documentary titled Indie Game: The Movie. Released in 2012, it follows the development of three of the best and most popular independent games of the time, Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Fez. These games were effectively the kick in the pants the industry needed to convince big publishers to start paying attention to the little guys, eventually leading to the creation of things like Sony's Pub Fund. Now, the indie scene is its own genre and some of the most creative, unique, or downright bizarre ideas come from small teams who are able to take risks that triple-A games can't.

Below you'll find Indie Game's IMDB page and trailer. This one's very easy to find. It's available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, PSN, and the Microsoft Store. In fact, you'll probably have an easier time finding it digitally than physically, unless you want to buy a DVD/Bluray copy from the Indie Game website. Happy new year everyone, and happy viewing!

Indie Game: The Movie (2012) on IMDB

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holy shit this looks so bad and awesome. Plus, I think Clea Duvall is great. I gotta watch it.

If you have a hard time finding it let me know. GrayGhost and I can share.
I AM having a hard time finding it! Haha.
I love the assessment of the characterization in this film as "half stereotype, half caricature." Another awesome write-up, Travis!

Noiseredux, check your email.

Looking forward to revisiting Indie Game: The Movie. Good pick!
hmm, I think maybe I registered w/ an old email address, bud. Can you hit me up at noiseredux at gmail please?

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