When done well, found-footage horror films are effective and inventive, bringing the audience intimately into the action without the façade of narrative distance. Unfortunately, “The Monster Project” is one that breaks the rules of the subgenre, and it seems to do so more as a result of laziness or ignorance than rebellion.
Amateur horror filmmakers Devon (Justin Bruening) and Jamal (Jamal Quezaire) want more views on their YouTube channel, so they decide to up their game. They post a casting call for real monsters (not actors), but when they actually get what they ask for, their night shoot turns into a nightmare. Joined by Devon’s ex, Murielle (Murielle Zuker), and recovering addict Bryan (Toby Hemingway), they try to escape the vampire (Yvonne Zima), skinwalker (Steven Flores) and demon-possessed woman (Shiori Ideta) they hired for their film.
With non-diegetic music and scenes that find the audience wondering why someone would record this, “The Monster Project” doesn’t measure up to its predecessors. The final product from director Victor Mathieu and his fellow screenwriters Corbin Billings and Shariya Lynn doesn’t get the benefit of a framing story, and it never justifies its existence.
While there are some cool creature effects and committed, physical performances by the actors playing the monsters, the movie’s worst sin isn’t the found-footage rules it ignores. Instead it breaks the cardinal rule of the larger horror genre, running 95 minutes without a single scare or moment of dread.
‘The Monster Project’
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica