In horror cinema, there are often a set of rules and concepts that films will typically not steer too far from, giving the audience a sense of what is to come while still allowing the directors and writers to play with the concepts and toying with expectations to present original works that shock and excite. This is what co-directors Justin Harding and Rob Brunner attempt with Making Monsters, and while not everything works, what does work offers up an engaging slow-burn horror film.
Taking the trope of a secluded couple away for a vacation only to find something, or someone is looking to hunt them down and ultimately kill them, Making Monsters set up works. Our victims Chris (Tim Loden) and Allison (Alana Elmer), are an internet-famous couple that through a series of prank videos have achieved a level of success—even if it comes at the cost of a strain on their relationship. Now looking to start fresh and breathe new life into romance after Allison decides she no longer wants to be the end to all the pranks, they look to stay in the cabin of an old friend.
Visiting David (Jonathan Craig) and his partner, the couple quickly enjoys the potential relaxation in the old converted church. When they learn that their friend is delayed, they decide to enjoy their time with food, drinks and drugs, that quickly devolves into complete debauchery. As Allison starts to see strange things, and time gets warped due to the narcotics and excitement, the couple quickly finds they are in dire trouble with no way to leave or call for help—at least not safely.
If the filmmakers stopped here, there would be a lot of strong concepts on display to carry viewers though its relatively brisk 85-minute runtime. The problem with Making Monsters is that at times, the film feels overstuffed and devoid of content all at the same time. This rests on the fact the directors are trying to include too many concepts for our characters to deal with. With dark web shenanigans, slashers, and even demonic forces and visions, there is simply too much going on to keep track of or follow. Yet, due to some overly slow shots, and a slow burn beginning, the film drags for the first few minutes of its runtime only to feel rushed the closer it gets to the ending.
There are some wonderful ideas at play and the performances are relatively strong throughout Making Monsters. Filmmakers Justin Harding and Rob Brunner show real talent with this feature film outing and it is easy to see them going on to make some exciting entries in the horror genre. The effects are spot on, with some of the masks and visuals working to build an uneasy, paranoia filled setting. The location and lighting also do a great job of capturing the vibe that makes the second half so filled with dread. Yet, even such good elements can’t hide the sometimes confusing direction, causing Making Monsters to lose its footing more times than I would like.
Making Monsters is a striking first feature film endeavour and one that shows true potential in the creative team’s abilities. There is a lot to like here, and when it works, this is a film that is well worth the watch. I just wish they had dialled back some of the ideas to really flesh out and explore what was on display, making for a higher watch. However, even with these gripes Making Monsters is a fun horror film that plays with some great ideas and executes on most of them. Well worth a watch for any indie horror fan after something a little different.