How to Make a Monster (2001)

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Released 8-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Featurette-Making Of
Gallery-Photo
Trailer-Godzilla; The Forsaken; The Breed; Hollow Man
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
DVD-ROM Extras-Web Links
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 86:24
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (49:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By George Huang
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Steven Culp
Tyler Mane
Clea DuVall
Jason Marsden
Karim Prince
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.00 Music David Reynolds


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Arabic
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Computer hardware placement abound
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A good B-grade movie is hard to find but How To Make A Monster is one that is easy to watch and fairly entertaining without being terrific. Slightly low on quality, this made-for-video/made-for-cable TV movie has some minor horror elements to it, a semi-decent idea which allows for the cast to get the most out of the limited dialogue and script, a woefully unscary monster (or am I becoming inured to such things), decent graphics and an almost laughable plot line, but it all works surprisingly well, if you allow for the fact that this is a low budget effort. The budget for the movie isn't constrained by lavish sets since all the action takes place inside 4 or 5 rooms allowing for slightly better than average CGI although some of the other special effects (a bright light behind a row of steel shuttered doors, please!) must have cost at least a dollar.

    The premise of the movie is actually quite decent. A new computer game is due to be released and its first alpha testing with a group of young gamers produces some unexpected results. Basically, the game, called Evilution, is about as entertaining as PacMan and the monster about as scary as Pokemon. In order to rectify the situation and to beat the competition to the next big gaming release, the owner of the company, Faye (Colleen Camp) sacks her programmers and takes on board four of the most unlikey and motley crew possible. Drummond (Steven Culp) leads them and he almost looks presentable but his IT qualifications are sadly lacking. The first coder is Hardcore (Tyler Mane), a rather gigantic character who loves weapons and mayhem. Next is Bug (Jason Marsden), a geekish character who creates the sound effects and music and finally there is Sol (Karim Prince) whose AI engine is the heart and soul of any game. Together they are given a month by Faye to come up with something so scary it will demolish their competition and restore the fortunes of the company, and they are offered a $1m bonus to whichever feature of the game the testers think is the best.

    The building they are housed in is specially made to be locked down (naturally) in case someone tries to steal any of the ideas and to prevent anyone inside from stealing information. Cameras are mounted in every room with a special arming mechanism that seals all doors and windows totally. The four of them plus Laura (Clea Duvall), the intern for the company, are locked inside the building for almost 3 weeks attempting to salvage the game. Eventually they get to a point where they are ready to add in sprites and other constructs so they use a real person inside their specially-made telemetry suit to create their hero. Julie (Julie Strain), a rather tall and well-built model brought in for this purpose, is conned in putting on the suit but during the session a lightning strike plays havoc with the suit and it plays up, putting an end to Julie's co-operation. After this, the building suffers a couple more electrical surges which also wipe the mainframe, forcing them to restore their work from a backup. Trouble is, it isn't only the mainframe that's been spiked and Sol's AI engine begins to work on its own and their specially built suit suddenly comes to life and wreaks a little mayhem of its own.

    You'll have to forgive some of the more obvious technical faux pas, but otherwise it watches fairly easily. For those interested, the gore is actually fairly tame as is the language which doesn't get too out of hand (making me wonder why it garnered an R-rating since I doubt I'd have too many problems letting a 14 year old watch this). Still, if you need something undemanding to pass the night away, you could do a lot worse.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I didn't expect too much from this movie and basically it delivers little. It certainly won't make any top tens for quality but it is watchable, although you can see the lack of quality from the outset. So don't take my criticisms too harshly. For television this is fine, for DVD, well, that's another matter.

    Made for widescreen television this is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Soft and shapeless is the order of the day here. Any background shots are blurred to almost indistinction and fine detail just isn't available. Background detail is also missing which makes any shadow detail moot since there is little depth perception on offer throughout the movie. Anything moving in the background is undiscernible unless specifically brought into focus. Grain is fortunately reasonably light, but this is probably more due to the lack of sharpness. Low level noise wasn't seen, but then blacks were mostly a shapeless blob.

    The colours are affected by the softness of the picture. A reasonable palette is used but there is nothing remarkable about the colour quality. In some places it lacks saturation. In others, it is slightly oversaturated but no bleed was noted except as caused by the frequent ghosting effect that accompanies the entire movie. No chroma noise was present.

    Very few film or video artefacts to be noted, again possibly due to the lack of definition throughout. Some moiré artefacts at 2:26, 36:50 and 82:55 were seen. There was some microphony-type effect in the background at 35:57 and at 27:06 you can clearly see ghosting around the outlines of the cast. This is more or less noticeable throughout the movie but what caused it is hard to say - is it a bad transfer or is it part of the original source material? I couldn't say for sure.

    The subtitles are easy to read and that's about it. They are about 60% accurate to what is being said with huge chunks simply not there or sentences chopped together to form something similar to, but not quite what was said.

    The layer change is quick and painless, coming right at the end of one scene and the beginning of another scene at 49:53.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Not a bad audio mix for this disc without being anything special. There are two audio tracks but I listened exclusively to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at a very decent 448 kilobits per second. The main focus overall is squarely in front of you. There is little separation from the rears although they do add somewhat to create an immersive effect. The fronts are well utilised as usual with good concentration of the voices in the centre speaker and nicely equalised so that nothing becomes too overpowering.

    No problems were noted with the dialogue or the syncing on this disc.

    The soundtrack music is by David Reynolds (Earth vs the Spider) and isn't too bad at all. Incidental music by Poe, The Cult and P.O.D. all add to the mix. Most of it was used either in the end credits or adding to the sound effects for the video game which was pretty nicely done. Overall it's not memorable, but it is very decent and not distracting or strident in any way.

    The first thing I noticed about the rears was there was no separation in them. Sound effects cut into the surrounds came from both speakers which was a little off-putting at times. Mostly they were used to add envelopment to the music but they don't come with a lot of volume and often go missing. Some sound effects are channelled through the rear speakers but all too often they were simply passive.

    Although listed as a 5.1 soundtrack, the subwoofer gets little to do with not enough bass to be noticeable. There is the odd occasional grunt but for the most part you could turn off your subwoofer and never notice it was missing.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu Animation & Audio

    A 30 second cycle with what looks like a scene from a computer game with only sound effects overlaid.

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

    Standard fare.

Featurette-Making Of

    A 4x3 Full Frame offering with a running time of 3:06. This is full of grain and runs like an extended promo for the movie and the online game.

Gallery-Photo

Trailer

    Four trailers:

Filmographies-Cast & Crew

    Basic information on Clea Duvall, Tyle Mane, Julie Strain and Stan Winston

DVD-ROM Extras

    A weblink to the online game Evilution and also to the home page.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It would seem that both the R1 and R4 discs have precisely the same features and extras. Therefore, the R4 version would be the reader's choice.

Summary

    With some similarities to the monster in Virus, this lacks almost everything that movie had; quality, budget, acting and script. Still, for a low budget, B-grade effort, I've seen a lot worse and many more that were so boring that the inside of my eyelids held greater appeal. This one won't tax anyone too heavily in the thinking department.

    The video is pretty ordinary. For television it might be fine but on DVD it is simply poor.

    The audio is much better and more consistent, although it is more a 3.0 effort than a true 5.1 mix.

    Some attempt has been made to add some extras, dubious though a few of them are.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Monday, November 11, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD5300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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