Not so long ago someone got the bright idea to take a handful of old American International films released back in the 1950s and redo them for cable television...notice I didn't say remake...among them were Earth vs. the Spider (2001), She-Creature (2001), The Day the World Ended (2001), Teenage Caveman (2002), and this one, titled How to Make a Monster (2001). Written and directed by George Huang (Swimming with Sharks), the film features Steven Culp (Thirteen Days, "Desperate Housewives"), Clea DuVall (Ghosts of Mars, Identity), Jason Marsden (The Boy Who Cried Alien), Karim Prince ("Malcolm in the Middle"), and Tyler `Sabretooth' Mane (X-Men, Troy). Also appearing is Colleen Camp (D.A.R.Y.L., Clue), who was also one of the producers on this film, and horror queen of the plasticine Julie Strain (Psycho Cop Returns, Lingerie Kickboxer).
As the film begins we see a group of snotty children involved in a test market evaluation on a violent new video game called Evil-ution, which, by the way, is one of the shoddiest games I've seen in awhile. Anyway, after the children rip it a new one (they said it was lame, boring and not scary enough, among other things), the current game designers get the proverbial boot, eventually replaced by an outside team led by a weasel type named Peter Drummond (Culp) made up of a trio of antisocial misfits including an oversized paranoid sociopathic weapons expert named Hardcore (Mane), an outspoken artificial intelligence engine designer named Sol (Prince), and a nerdy, pimply toad named Bug, whose proficiency lies in music and sound effects. As the quartet move into their new high security digs (the world of video game design is cutthroat, full of industrial spies), they meet their intern named Laura (DuVall) along with learning they only have four weeks to `fix' the game (i.e. make it scary). They also learn whomever succeeds in making their particular module the scariest will get a million dollar bonus, which ends up resulting in some fierce competition among the three, along with a bit of not so friendly sabotage. Anyway, Julie Strain, playing herself, is brought in, stripped down, and fitted with a telemetry suit for no other reason that to allow for us to see her big `guns', and soon after lighting strikes a nearby power transformer, sending a freaky electrical spike into the mainframe resulting in the game coming to life as it uses said suit to enact homicidal scenarios from within the game (as the suit claims various victims, it incorporates their parts). Escape isn't possible as the security system within the building got tripped, and the whole place is on lockdown, forcing those inside still alive to try an assault on the mainframe itself.
While the film here shares the same name as the one originally released in 1958, that's about all the two have in common (the original involves a disgruntled special effects artist turning actors into murderers via mind controlling make-up). The main issues I have with this movie is the story, while simplistic, had little focus (along with no soul) and felt like it was all over the place, and the characters were flat and uninteresting. As a result, I checked the running time displayed on my DVD player regularly, trying to calculate how much time was left. Some might ask if that were the case, why keep watching the movie? Well, once I start a film, I generally like to see it all the way through, for better or for worse. I wouldn't call this film awful, but after watching it I began thinking of all the other ways I could have spent the hour and a half required to watch the movie. Another thing, often there were elements in the story that ended up having nothing to do with anything...one example of this was an unaccredited role by Danny Masterson, who plays the character Hyde from `That 70's Show'. His role here was as Laura's slightly psycho boyfriend who would send her nasty emails laced with profanities. Why? Because he was crazy...what did his character have to do with the plot? Nothing, as far as I could tell. And then there's the video game...gah! I know it was probably thrown together for the film and was meant to look like a work in progress, but still, it was incredibly chintzy and not something I'd ever be interested in playing (and I dig on violent games). There were some bright spots...Julie Strain does appear topless for no apparent reason than to have some nekkidness in the film, her performance the equivalent to showing up, showing her goodies, and then looking for her check. Clea DuVall, who doesn't appear nekkid, is sort of attractive, despite her mannish, Cro-Magnon brow. I thought it might have been kind of cool had Ms. Strain somehow been incorporated into the suit and transformed into a sword wielding killer driven by the game, but that didn't happen. I did feel some of the actors (many of whom I've seen in better roles) tried to put some effort into their roles, but given how they were written it was obviously an uphill battle. I thought the creature effects looked cool especially once it was fully realized and outfitted with body parts, armor, and weapons. The story does ramble along, various characters get bumped off, none of them even remotely likable (I thought Mane's character the most psychotically entertaining), eventually culminating into a really pathetic sword fighting sequence between Laura and the creature, the latter looking much like something from the Bruce Campbell film Army of Darkness (1992). All in all this is a fairly forgettable film, one that has a few highlights, but ultimately not one I'd actively recommend anyone go out of their way to see. I would recommend checking out the original 1958 feature as it's a bit more entertaining, in my opinion.
The picture on this DVD, available in both fullscreen (1.33:1) and anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), comes across well and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is clean and clear. Extras include a `making of' featurette (3:05), a DVD-ROM game, a photo galley, filmographies, and subtitles available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Also included are some unrelated trailers for other DVD releases including It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Wolf (1994), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Fright Night (1985), and The Breed (2001).