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By Mark Bell | September 2, 2012

Lilly (Sierra Willis) enters a spooky, seemingly abandoned building, looking for her missing mother. As she wanders with her sole companion, a stuffed monster doll appropriately named “Mr. Monster,” she is surprised by a dirt-covered boy, Ian (Caon Mortenson), who warns her to keep quiet, lest she get hurt. Lilly persists, however, and comes to a room where a woman resembling her mother resides. As Lilly enters, she finds herself shocked by the badly scarred creature in front of her, who turns on Lilly and attacks.

Ian comes to Lilly’s rescue, however, and thus begins a strained-at-first friendship. Only after another rescue by Ian does Lilly finally start to understand how dangerous her new environs are, which is only made worse when Ian reveals that everyone who enters this place, no matter who they are and for whatever reason, must stay there for 30 days. It’s not that bad for Ian, he’s on his final few days, but Lilly’s are just getting started.

Simon Hung’s Mr. Monster is a nice little survivalist action-horror tale, with children in danger and no adults to come to the rescue. The film plays spooky and creepy well, knows how to work horror convention and also throws in some innovative filmmaking techniques that aren’t remotely as utilized nowadays as they should be. Visually strong all around, the film doesn’t trip up much in the technical areas.

I would’ve liked a bit more of an explanation behind the premise of the film, however. Where are they, and why are there rules for how long they have to stay? Is this a form of Hell, and Lilly is stuck solely because she dared go after her missing mother? Considering the place is populated with murderers and the like, all stalking and killing the few children lost in the building, it sure seems like a Hell of some sort. But then why are the kids there? Is it Pat Benatar’s fault; was she right all along?

Other than those confused questions of the film’s mythology, I didn’t have many problems with the short film. The audio sometimes feels a bit too precise and manufactured, but that can be the rub of an overly polished mix; sometimes you won’t notice it, often times you will. It’s just, when it’s too clean for the scene, I get that inauthentic feeling, and that happens a few times in this film.

On the innovative and positive side of the tech spectrum, the film utilizes a somewhat uncommon montage technique; seamlessly layering images while panning the camera to simulate the passage of time is extremely effective, and allows for a montage that, while being distinctive, isn’t jarring either. Most notably seen repeatedly in the Wachowski’s Speed Racer, Mr. Monster does it really well.

In the end, while I didn’t quite know exactly why what was happening was happening, I found Mr. Monster to be a fun mini-ride through survivalist action-horror. If this is to be a taste of a bigger project to come, I definitely want to check out the extended version. If it is to exist alone as this short, it works there as well, but I’ll always be clamoring for more answers and explanation (which is unfortunate, because that opens things up to getting what you asked for, and then being disappointed).

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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