How to Make a Monster (2001)
When a computer-game company needs a scary product for its new title "Evil-ution," they turn to Drummond (Steven Culp) and his programming whiz-kids, Hardcore (Tyler Mane), Bug (Jason Marsden), and Sol (Karim Prince) to turn out a terrifying game within a month. And though the deadline is tight, whoever finishes the game on time gets a $1 million bonus, driving the programmers to work around the clock. The stakes and the infighting are high, and the only impartial observer seems to be Laura Wheeler (Clea Duvall), the nice intern who was also the Ms. Pac-Man champ four years running. With the deadline approaching, fears of piracy growing between the nerds, and short-outs an ongoing problem, the boys are running on fumes when a freak electrical accident causes their body suit to have a mind of its own, and soon geeks start dying. Writer/director George (Swimming with Sharks) Huang's entry into the Showtime Creature Feature series (a set of made for cable films designed around Stan Winston make up effects that are in-name-only remakes of earlier grade-Z horror films) has at least a story and personality, making it an improvement on Earth vs. The Spider, but for a horror film, it never really kicks into gear until the last half hour, with the first hour being dedicated to character development. That's not a bad thing, as characters in horror films often are anemically constructed, but it comes at expense of a sense of dread or malice for far too much of the running time. Performances are strong though, with Duvall showing sparks here that she hasn't in some of her supporting work, and some amusing casting (X-Men's Mane as a computer programmer is a nice touch) keep the movie agreeable. But perhaps the most interesting element of the picture is how director Huang turns it into an auteur piece by rummaging through some of his favorite themes regarding corporate environments and their inner workings. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of How to Make a Monster presents the film in both anamorphic widescreen and pan-and-scan (which, since it appeared first on Showtime, could be considered its original aspect ratio), while audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras include a three-minute featurette, a stills gallery, trailers for this and other Columbia TriStar horror flicks, and cast and crew bios. Keep-case.