Found footage films are a divisive bunch. When executed properly they can be effective. However, it seems like every time we get one good one it is followed by a couple thousand terrible ones. The Monster Project falls somewhere in between these two extremes. It has a great premise and a solid script on top of terrific performances by an ensemble cast. Unfortunately, it’s rather hard to look at.
The movie opens by introducing us to Devon and Jamal, two guys who are making fake monster videos to post on YouTube. They seem to be having some success doing this (I’ve never had 170,000+ views on one of my videos) and Devon gets the idea to expand on their concept. The two of them hatch the idea for a documentary called The Monster Project in which they will interview “real” monsters. The idea being that the interview subjects will most likely be crazy people but it won’t matter, people will watch it anyway. They recruit a vampire, a skin-walker and a girl who believes she is possessed by a demon to be interviewed and a couple of friends as crew and they are off to a creepy old house they rented from a creepy old guy. Clearly things do not go as planned.
It’s a simple premise that is turned into a good script by director Victor Mathieu, Shariya Lynn and Corbin Billings. The writing team has created a handful of great characters who feel like real people and who have unique relationships with one another. The film moves along at a good pace, never seeming to lag or waste any time.
The cast brings these characters to life. It truly is an ensemble film. The four filmmakers are the heart and soul of this story and the actors deliver. There really isn’t a weak link among the four of them. Equally as important, although on screen less, are the three actors who play the monsters. All three of them manage to bring out the personality of who these people are as people, yet they each show subtle traces of their darker side. While they are all great, special attention should be given to Yvonne Zima. Watching her sit at a table as the playful yet devious vampire Shayla was a real treat.
It’s the darkness that keeps The Monster Project from being entirely successful. Not the figurative darkness, literally the darkness. One of the knocks on found footage movies is that they are hard to watch. The camera is in a constant state of motion and, aside from potentially making the audience seasick, it can make it hard to follow the action on-screen. That issue is compounded here by the fact that so much of the action is shot in the dark and seen through that weird, hard to decipher, green night vision. Often there are screams and loud noises but it is nearly impossible to figure out what it is that you’re seeing. It’s hard to enjoy a movie when you’re constantly having to hit the rewind button just to make sense out of what just happened and I had to do that more than a couple of times while watching this one.
The Monster Project is streaming on Amazon Prime. If you’re a Prime member you could certainly do worse than this, if you’re not a Prime member don’t go out of your way just for this movie.