Monster Project, The (2017)

Starring Justin Bruening, Jamal Quezaire, Murielle Zuker, Toby Hemingway

Directed by Victor Mathieu


Not to be confused with The Monster Squad, which turns thirty years old this year, Victor Mathieu’s The Monster Project does feature vampires and werewolves; but the classic Universal monsters sadly don’t turn up in what would have been their first appearance in the found footage realm. Spinning off of the always compelling idea that Anne Rice introduced us to in Interview with the Vampire, opportunism gets the best of a group of filmmakers hoping for a viral success that unfortunately goes south, devolving into a night of terror. But they do manage to get some great footage… even if they may end up dying for it.

YouTube videographers Devon (Bruening) and Jamal (Quezaire) are enjoying some success making short creature features, but like so many aspiring “filmmakers,” they’re looking to get as many views as possible. In this day and age eyeballs equal dollars so Devon comes up with the brilliant idea of putting out an ad looking to interview people who believe they are actual monsters. Apparently, vampires, skinwalkers, and demons were anxiously awaiting this kind of invitation; and suddenly, three willing participants are ready for their closeup.

Enlisting the help of his ex-girlfriend, Murielle (Zuker), and Bryan (Hemingway) – a recovering addict fresh out of rehab – Devon conveniently stumbles upon an old, decrepit house to film in. On the night of a lunar eclipse the cameras start rolling, quickly revealing that all three subjects aren’t just troubled and misguided; they’re the real deal.

The most compelling creature during these interviews is the blood-drinking Shayla (Zima), who delights in manipulating and undermining the entire process at every turn. Her scenes could easily have gone on longer, but Mathieu and DP Phillip Sebal are more interested in getting to the funhouse action that becomes the centerpiece as the fight for survival gets under way. The lore in place surrounding the skinwalker is also intriguing and could have been explored further. Instead, the hot lights of the interviews explode, green POV night-vision mode is enabled, and we’re off into pure found footage territory.

The action is frenetic and inventive in some scenes, with characters being dragged, thrown, and ripped through the interior of the house with an increasing level of ferocity. The visual effects are also fairly effective in most scenes, especially in sequences involving the protruding snout and unhinged jaws of the skinwalker as it tears through walls, leaping and terrorizing Devon and his ragtag crew. The house itself has a very dark history that also comes into play towards the climax, and it’s clear that the unrelenting action and jump scares are meant to distract somewhat from the main twist that’s revealed later on.

Although there are a few missed opportunities here and the action and sound design can be a little overbearing at times, The Monster Project is a cut above the usual fare of found footage horror. The main characters, including the creatures, all have their moments even if the setup offers more originality than the battle royale following it. There are some riveting moments, before and after the carnage begins, and some of the fast-paced stunts are reminiscent of 2013’s Afflicted – another vampire-centric found footage film with some astounding set pieces. That film didn’t get its due upon release, but maybe Mathieu’s entry will find some life.

The Monster Project hits limited theaters and VOD today, August 18th.


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