It must be something about Bigfoot.
Here’s one of the best movies I’ve seen from The Polonia Brothers — the legendary Grade Z filmmakers who’ve made an incredible number of memorably bad but surprisingly addictive DIY shot on video films for well over thirty years. It’s almost as good as Among Us (2004), which I consider to be perhaps their best ever, and feels a lot more heartfelt than most of their films have for a long time.
And what do you know, both films feature Bigfoot.
Okay, maybe that’s not it either: after all, both Frozen Sasquatch and Bigfoot vs. Zombies feature Bigfoot, and they’re both fairly routine offerings.
And this ignores what is perhaps the strangest thing about Reel Monsters: it is Mark Polonia’s attempt at a children’s film.
What Reel Monsters and Among Us do share is that both are about filmmaking, even if the two movies look at it from very different perspectives: in Among Us, we have a morally dubious director of schlocky exploitation films who has suddenly had his perspective changed and has been forced to reassess his career; while in Reel Monsters, the film is told from the perspective of a young, aspiring filmmaker who is excited about the possibilities of what he could do — with the help of a sincere if somewhat clueless teacher and a club full of aspiring filmmakers.
Now I have to admit that I’m mildly amused that all the teens this club all have 8mm cameras. I know that the flashbacks featuring the hero’s father as a boy are set many years earlier — I believe in the Seventies or Eighties — but as far as I could tell, the main part of the story is supposed to be set in the present.
Although it’s a present where teen filmmakers run around with 8mm cameras.
Heck, can you still get 8mm film processed?
Assuming, of course, that you actually had any 8mm film to process.
Both films also have scripts by John Oak Dalton. I’d always assumed that this was one of the many pseudonyms used by the Polonia Brothers, but in fact he is a busy screenwriter who’s turned out over forty scripts mostly for the DTV market and seen at least a dozen of them turn into actual movies. He’s also responsible for some of the better Polonia Brothers films, including Peter Rottentail and Jurassic Prey.
But I can’t remember any of his other scripts where Dalton delved into filmmaking itself. Perhaps it was making a movie for a younger audience that inspired him this time around — although, I have to wonder about Billy D’Amato’s comment in Among Us, that he was surprised how few of his films could be shown to children. At the time, it made me think that line was written a new father. And perhaps now he’s thinking about passing his legacy on.
It’s as good a guess as any other.
Basically, Reel Monsters is a Scooby Doo episode (from the best early Scooby Doo, Where Are You episodes, that is). Our young hero’s father has vanished and he and his new friends set off with 8mm cameras in hand to find him — and to get some good footage of Bigfoot. It’s fun and lighthearted little film, with simple villains, a collection of little mysteries for the film club to solve, and while a few of the Polonia Brothers regular cast do show up, the young kids are the real stars and get most of the screentime.
As a result, it looks a lot less like one of their films than usual, with only a few familiar locations. I have this sneaking suspicion that the old 8mm footage of Bigfoot might possibly have been a lost snippet from the Polonia Brother’s past: the clothes look very Seventies or Eighties, and I thought one of the people on the film looked like a young Mark or John, although you only see him from the back. Certainly the creature in these sequences doesn’t look at all like the one we see in the “present.”
The Bigfoot itself isn’t very impressive. You can see the raw edges of the fur attached to the mask, and the mask itself (which is one of the less impressive ones from the Empire of the Apes films) just doesn’t look like a Bigfoot.
But then you don’t watch a Polonia Brothers’ film for great monster suits.
Or at least you shouldn’t.
This is definitely not a bad film, despite its grade Z origins and budget. I’m not sure those of you who haven’t explored the Direct-to-video swamp will appreciate this one as much as I do. After all, it was made next to nothing with a low budget cast.
Or maybe you are one of those nitpickers who’s going to get hung up on those silly images of kids filming everything in 8mm.
But for those of us who’ve been following The Polonia Brothers for a long time — or who are willing to accept low production standards when watching such super low budgeted films — this is definitely worth a look.
And you won’t even need an 8mm camera to enjoy it…