by Hope Madden
Call me superficial, but I really enjoy those old school, pre-credit scares in horror films. (I am also a sucker for post-credit stingers, if I’m being totally honest.)
Done well, they set a tone, freak you out, and make you simultaneously afraid to watch the rest of the film and unwilling to turn away. Writer/co-director Justin Harding knows this, obviously. With a brief but exceptionally chilly opening sequence, he and co-director Rob Brunner dare you to finish their film, Making Monsters.
Christian (Tim Loden) and Allison (Alana Elmer) are planning for their wedding, beginning steps toward IVF, and struggling with the changes this is going to mean in their relationship as well as their livelihood. Apparently, their whole gig is a popular online prank show consisting of Christian scaring the poop out of Allison twice a week.
And she’s marrying him?
They run into an old friend, he invites them to his rustic new digs way out in BFE, and they sneak away for a quiet weekend. Or is it another prank?
If you think the viral prank horror premise is weak and tired, you are spot on. Luckily, Making Monsters doesn’t beat it to death, nor do they rely on found footage or a ton of shaky cam or even a lot of slickly produced viral videos. It’s all in there, but some of it serves a narrative purpose and none of it really wears out its welcome.
Elmer is especially solid, delivering a nuanced and believable character who loves and accepts Christian and remains optimistic that he, too, is ready to grow up. Allison is dimensional, and though it takes some time to realize it, so is Christian.
Jonathan Craig is a good time in a weird role, although he pulls too many tricks from Mark Duplass’s bag of magic to be truly fresh. Still, he’s fun in his own way and the rapport among the three main players rings true enough to elevate the material around them.
Not everything lives up to that first shock, but the next 80ish minutes of Making Monsters are worth a watch.