Toronto After Dark Review: 'Making Monsters' Fails to Exploit Its Influencer Premise Directed by Justin Harding and Rob Brunner
Starring Jonathan Craig, Alana Elmer, Peter Higginson, Tim Loden, Jarrett Siddall
Published Oct 22, 2019Making Monsters is a case study in an excellent premise stretched too thin, and a concept that doesn't have enough legs to sustain an entire feature film. In lieu of this, Making Monsters fills its runtime with stories-within-stories, a too-long setup and more genre tropes than you can shake a machete at. It treads such familiar territory and feels like so many films we've seen before that its initial promise seems like a distant memory by the time it enters its second act.
Chris (Tim Loden) and Allison (Alana Elmer) are an engaged couple who have become internet famous for their series of online prank videos, which have propelled them to niche stardom as "boundary-pushers." Chris is the mastermind behind the project, and often Allison is the target of his pranks — a setup she's becoming increasingly tired of. When a friend invites the couple to stay in his gorgeous cottage up north for the weekend, Chris and Allison, hoping to invigorate their strained relationship, agree. Unfortunately, there's someone deadly lurking in the woods, and a burial ground full of ghosts in the backyard that want something from the possibly psychic Allison.
Making Monsters' premise is interesting, but it's one that the filmmakers don't seem to know how to flesh out. An extraneous ghost story seems thrown in for the sake of padding an already tight runtime, further muddying the film's themes of deception and obsession. It hits all the notes we'd expect to see in a "psycho killer in the woods" film, but when it does, they feel muted and not at all scary, hindered by a slow setup and cinematography that places the camera either too close or too far away from the action. There are plot twists and turns, but these too are telegraphed pretty early on.
There are moments in which Making Monsters flirts with statements about YouTube fan culture and the all-encompassing nature of internet fame, but it's never very subtle, delivered via monologue instead of letting the audience have something to thoughtfully chew on. By the time the film enters its second act, it's devolved into something much more generic, despite the unique set design — the cottage Chris and Allison are staying in belongs to a special effects artist, and the shelves are full of creepy monster heads and severed silicone limbs. It's something fun to look at while the film plays out predictably, at least.