The Monster Project (2017)

A group of filmmakers decide to do a reality tv/found footage project about real monsters.

Written by Victor Mathieu, Shariya Lynn, and Corbin Billings, the film is directed by Victor Mathieu who takes a found footage approach to things, having the show within the movie and the action of the people behind the scenes all being in found footage style, for better or worse. The story here is one found footage fans are familiar with. A team goes into a building with the hopes of filming real monsters and interviewing them. In what looks like something very inspired by ghost hunters tv shows, the crew shoots themselves doing this in night vision on very shaky cam. The monsters here may or may not be real, something the film hopes to blur with its approach and how the characters are brought on.

The cast here is not super known which is a good thing as well-known cast can pull one right out of a found footage film. With some digging, it looks like some of them will be familiar to some viewer, but they have not done tones of horror, so they are not super familiar with fans of the genre. Their work here is good, they play their characters rather naturally. Lead Justin Bruening as Devon gives the best performance in the film, keeping to his persona through and through and giving a grounding character for the film to feel real. The rest of the cast gets a lot less screen time, giving them less time to make an impression, which is too bad in most cases, but definitely to the advantage of a few. Making the most of this shorter screen time is Yvonne Zima as Shayla, giving a performance that attracts the attention and keeps it. Her contact lenses and faux tattoos are a distraction, but she manages to keep the viewer’s attention nonetheless, with a good performance that is worth a watch.

The cinematography by Phillip Sebal is typical of most found footage films, which means it’s a lot of first person footage, some night vision footage, and a whole lot of shaky cam, especially in the start of the film where no real static shots are done. This leads to the film feeling like it’s trying to give the viewer motion-sickness or a headache right out the gate a sort of test of endurance to get to the rest where the monsters show up. At that point, a lot of it is shot in interview-style and that is a welcomed change as it keeps the images from constantly moving. His editing also adds to the recurrent shaky cam feel and how it just cuts away and comes back and creates a visual chaos that could be good but feels over-used here.

The Monster Project is a monster film as in it has potential monsters involved, but they are not super scary or all that grabbing to this viewer. In the oversaturated sub-genre of found footage, this one unfortunately does not keep the attention as it feels a bit generic with its use of night vision and shaky as hell cam in some parts. It’s a decent effort, but it’s not scary and does not pack a real punch in terms of leaving the viewer shocked. It also is not one of those that sticks with the viewer for days like some of the first few found footage films did. The film is not boring per sey, but it does not really bring that much new to the found footage plate and it over-uses chaotic images when a few good static shots could easily have worked better. It’s a decent movie, but not as good as it could have been given the idea it works with and the good cast it has. The monster interviews are good and interesting, the drama around them not so much unfortunately. The film’s last third gets full of mayhem, but the shooting style breaks it, creating something that is visually hard to watch and ultimately something many will probably not want to watch.