(aka Dinosaur Activity)
You are cleaning out your storeroom at the University and you find a pile of film cans full of unused 16mm film stock. What do you do?
Well, if you are Mark Polonia, you use them to make a movie about a guy who finds a stockpile of 16mm film stock and decides to make a movie.
And, if that isn’t post-modern enough for you then we’ll call him “Alan Wyoming,” a name fans of Mark and John Polonia and the strange films they’ve made will recognize instantly. After all, “Alan” has been the screenwriter and location manager and dozens of other credited jobs on their films for years.
Now, for those of you who weren’t paying attention earlier, the Polonia Brothers are the undisputed Kings of SOV (shot on video) film. They rose to cult status during the age of the Mom and Pop VHS video rental store, making lots of eccentric, super cheap films, most of which were shot right in their hometown of Wellsboro, Pa.
At any rate, Alan, his brother Joey (John Polonia) and their friends TC (Polonia regular Todd Carpenter) and Brian (Brian Berry) who just happens to be an actor, are all off on their annual guys only trip to a cabin they’ve rented (which just happens to be the same cabin we’ve seen in Dweller and Among Us. You’d think people would be avoiding the place by now…)
On their way there, they come across a strange fire and some dead animals (which, in true Polonia fashion are played by plastic toy horses and lots of what looks like that squirtable strawberry jelly) and hear some stories from the local garage owner, Duke (yet another regular, Ken Van Sant, in one of his earliest appearances). But when they finally get there, it seems that their biggest problem may be that the owner failed to stock the fridge as he promised and that they don’t have any food. Before long, though, they start hearing strange things, finding huge tracks, toppled trees and scattered lawn furniture.
And then a huge creature attacks and they’re forced to flee for their lives…
This is, without question, the most Meta film the Polonia Brothers ever made. Although I’ll admit it does reflect one of those problems for which there are no easy solutions. Mark had his film stock, but it was the remnants of past projects and was an assortment of different brands, types and grades of film. How else could you explain the sudden and noticeable changes in quality?
Ironically, despite the switch to real film, Monster Movie does not look as good as many of their SOV films of the era — compare it, for example, to Among Us, Razorteeth, and Splatter Beach. Nor is the variation in film stock particularly noticeable — at least not in the streaming version on Vimeo.
One does get the feeling that we are getting glimpses of the Brothers and their friends on a real vacation — a slightly fictionalized working vacation with a bit of improvised moviemaking thrown in, but still real — much as the wrapping of Christmas presents and other festive moments in Feeders 2: Slay Bells is probably real footage of Christmas at the Polonias.
This is also their first found footage film. Not that they’ve actually made a lot of them. About the only other one that comes to mind is Alien Surveillance, which is a very different sort of film altogether. Sadly, I believe that this was also the last film John worked on before his untimely death.
The creature was yet another interesting Brett Piper creation, although it appears to be a hand puppet and I don’t think Brett is actually working it as he only gets a design credit. I rather like it as it has a rather quizzical expression on its face and is mildly friendly-looking in a dim-witted sort of way.
Which, you’ll admit, is somewhat unexpected on the beast that’s trying to kill you.
While we are told, at the very end of the story, that there are dozens of the beasts out there, we never actually see more than one at a time.
That does save a lot of money.
Anthonia Polonia, who would direct his own first film a decade later makes a brief appearance as Duke’s nephew, although he’s only in two shots or so and we actually have the characters discussing who he is long before we actually see Anthony.
This was undoubtedly the Polonia Brothers answer to Cloverfield: while they obviously can’t match millions of dollars worth of effects, it doesn’t take them nearly as long setting up its characters and the interesting bits start happening a lot sooner.
And I’d argue that the scenes with Alan and his gang just hanging out are far more interesting than the similar scenes in the first twenty five minutes of Cloverfield.
While this isn’t one of the Brothers best films it is one of their better efforts and quite entertaining in their minimal way and is definitely worth a look for their fans out there, even if Wild Eye Releasing did stick an exceptionally silly new name on it.
And for those of you worried about what happened to Alan Wyoming?
Well, he must have been okay.
After all, he shows up again in last year’s Deadly Playthings. Only now he’s a real estate agent.
Nothing like a giant monster for making you rethink your career, I guess…
(My thanks to Mark Polonia for sorting out a few of the details for me!)
[I have since learned from Mark that he actually shot the film on mini DV (his preferred video format at the time) at 24p and then spent weeks making it look like 16mm, a feat he says was more difficult than making the film itself! Now that’s post-modern, working overtime to make a film look like a film you made using a variety of assorted batches of 16mm film!]