Justin Harding and Rob Brunner’s Making Monsters is clearly a labour of love. Strewn with visual references to the filmmakers’ past projects (their short films Kookie and Latched played After Dark a few years ago) and made with their friends and loved ones, it moves naturally and provides a lot of tension on a journey to, well, nowhere in particular. Making Monsters introduces many layers and elements to its characters, especially it’s two leads, and does a good job of making them seem realistic and fleshed-out, but ultimately doesn’t do enough with them. It’s an enjoyable watch with some above-average atmosphere, but feels a bit hollow by the end, like too many ideas in search of a movie.
Making Monsters centres around Chris Brand (Tim Loden), a successful and charismatic YouTube prankster whose brand, so to speak, revolves around videos of him scaring his wife, Allison (Alana Elmer). Allison is mostly game for this but, with the couple approaching their 40’s, she wants to start a family and she and Chris begin the process of fertility treatment. This expensive and risky procedure means that Chris’s pranks and the stress they cause to Allison are not on the menu, which produces no small bit of anxiety in Chris. While this is going on, Chris and Allison are invited up to a friend’s house for the weekend – a converted church in an isolated town. When the couple arrives at the breathtaking church, though, Chris’s friend isn’t there, having left his fanboyish and wacky partner, David (Jonathan Craig), to host the pair. Despite this, Chris, Allison, and David make a night of it by taking some mysterious drugs proffered by David and blacking out. When they wake up, nothing is what it seems and something deadly and mysterious is in pursuit of the pair.
After a Q&A with the filmmakers at the screening I attended, I found myself with more questions than answers. Apparently, this is a ghost story, even though the film seemed to take that angle in another direction entirely. From the filmmakers’ comments, it sounds like they had an idea for a film about YouTube stars/influencers and the nature of viral media, but also really wanted to shoot a film in the converted church whose setting makes up the majority of the film’s runtime. The result is an incongruous mashup that tries and is never quite successful at making both inspirations fit into the same project. That being said, it’s a fun watch with a script whose dialogue and world-building are pretty smart, even though it fails to stick the landing quite right. Loden and Elmer have great chemistry and charisma, and no one is having as great a time as Craig. The trio’s enthusiasm and love for the project are infections, despite the film’s flaws.
There is just so much to Making Monsters that it couldn’t possibly tackle it all in its relatively scant 85-minute runtime. Allison’s family history with ghost whisperin’ mediums, the dark web, the notion of YouTube viral content, and more are packed into this script, which resolves into a pretty simple (though appropriately tension-filled) final sequence that doesn’t pay off any of that development. Making Monsters is one of those movies that’s a lot of fun to experience, especially with an audience. Just don’t think about it too hard.