Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Exhumed - Monster Makers (2003)

The Exhumed returns with a frightening new addition!

Recently, I've found that Instagram is a great place to learn about movies that you've never heard of. This discovery has lead to quite a few purchases, especially imports. One of my recent finds was the 2003 Hallmark Channel film, Monster Makers. Needless to say, the name alone sold me and I had a copy in my hands less than a week later.

We all know Hallmark as a predominantly Christmas movie channel. They seem to do at least 10 new Christmas movies each year and start airing them earlier and earlier. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with that, but now that I know that they did a Halloween movie once, it stings a little bit. Of course, before I decided to go and get upset at Hallmark before doing my research,

I have found that they haven't released any other Halloween specific content like this. They have, however, done quite a few different Fall themed movies. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff and, I say this with no shame whatsoever, I genuinely enjoyed all of The Good Witch movies that I've seen.

I have an inquiry into Hallmark to find out why there hasn't been a Halloween movie since 2003. I've yet to receive a reply. I guess Big Christmas has something to do with that.

Monster Makers premiered in October of 2003 on The Hallmark Channel. It's a love letter to black and white monster movies and to the people who love them. The film stars Linda Blair, George Kennedy, and Adam Baldwin. The film revolves around Tim Stoker as he and his mom move to into a new house owned by an old monster movie maker. One day, Tim discovers an unreleased movie in the basement of the house called "Monsters on the Loose". Once he plays the film on Halloween night, the monsters come off the screen and terrorize the town. It's up to Tim and a cast of characters, including a movie sheriff, to defeat the monsters and save the day.

It reads a little ridiculously, but it's a decent plot for a film like this. I've seen my fair share of these kinds of movies and Monster Makers ranks pretty high on the watchable list. Obviously, it's a film intended for kids to watch around Halloween, so you shouldn't expect too much from it.

The film has a lot going for it, but the thing that's the best are the new monsters that are created specifically for the film. Lots of movies would simply recycle Frankenstein, Dracula, or The Wolf Man. This film instead features three completely different characters who have enough traits in common with the big three that it's hardly a coincidence; Revenant, a living ghost that can possess anybody, Vermin, a were-rat who was a victim of a nuclear government experiment, and Manikin, a mannequin dummy who is looking to replace his plaster parts for real ones.

Honestly, these are pretty terrifying monsters. Manikin has one human arm and the rest of him is pieced together other mannequins. Revenant was also an interesting character, as a living ghost really makes no sense whatsoever, but the concept that he can possess people is interesting as it gave the actors a lot more to do. I feel that device was used a bit too much in the film, but what do I know? Vermin was probably the least effective, but you have to have a were-something somewhere.

Probably the shining star of the film is Adam Baldwin, as if we expected anything else. As Sheriff Jay Forrest, he is hurled from the screen into the real world. Unlike Jack Slater in the underrated "Last Action Hero", Forrest only experiences a brief set back when he finds out he's a fictional character. His interactions with the monsters and characters in a time period very different from his is hilarious. In once instance, he learns that the microwave can make popcorn in under three minutes. His delivery in this scene sums up why Baldwin is more than deserving of our adoration.

The film does, however, suffer the standard things related to some Hallmark Channel films. There is rather stiff acting, especially from Linda Blair, which was very disappointing. I didn't expect a ton from her, but at least a little bit of emotion wouldn't have hurt. Not to mention the ending of the film is almost directly ripped off from other movies. The cons here are definitely not enough to outweigh the pros. But really, if you're even reading this website, this movie is probably right up your alley.

You can buy Monster Makers on DVD pretty easily, but the VHS copy seems to be a bit harder to come by. I will be adding this one to my Halloween watch list, as it really puts you in the Halloween spirit. I highly recommend this one to the monster kid in us all.

I'll let you know if Hallmark ever responds to my request for more Halloween movies.

Bonus comments: Around 2003, the Disney Channel Original Movie content was starting to fade. "The Scream Team" was released in 2002, while "Halloweentown High" was released in 2004. That makes 2003 the first year since DCOMs existed that there wasn't a Halloween movie. It's probably simply a coincidence that Monster Makers came out that year, but it's not so crazy to think that this one could easily have been released on Disney Channel. It would have been a little different, for sure, but it makes me wonder if Disney passed on the script or if it was intended specifically for Hallmark. We may never know.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Felix! I was poking around the web looking for some graphical material around "Monster Makers" and was happy to find the images you had in the body of your review. As it so happens, I'm the writer of this little Halloween morsel and I was delighted that you understood the impetus behind it: Celebrating the genre as best I could given the limitations of what Hallmark would be able to do. To touch on a couple of points from your coverage, I can tell you that this was written specifically for Hallmark.

    I was actually in the offices of Larry Levinson Productions in Los Angeles as my first movie for Hallmark, "Santa Jr.", was being edited. My executive producer, Steven Squillante, called me into his office and said he'd just been talking with the Hallmark Channel development director on the phone and did I have any ideas for a Halloween movie? Being a writer in Hollywood, you never let an opportunity pass you by, so I said "Of course!" He then asked me what it was. I had been toying with doing a story using Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo" gimmick of having a character come off of the screen, so that became the germ of "Monster Makers". I literally improvised the pitch right there in Steve's office, then ran home and dashed off a 10 page outline, emailed it to him, and he submitted it to Hallmark. Five weeks later I got the greenlight and started writing the script.

    Because I had behaved myself on the set of "Santa Jr.", I was given greater access during the pre-production on this movie. I even got to be in on the creature development at Almost Human, the special effects shop that create Manikin ad Vermin. (They originally had 3 expressions for Manikin's face but in my reality for the movie, his wooden face COULDN'T change expressions. Plus, as I pointed out, it was way more creepy with just that frozen 1950's department store dummy smile on his face at all times. My secret wish was that someday I'd meet someone who saw the movie when they were 4 years old and Manikin scared the crap out of them...)

    Being on set was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with Adam Baldwin, and Linda Blair, and George Kennedy. (The two lead kids had no idea who Linda was, so one day she invited them into her trailer to watch "The Exorcist" with her.) I also got to act in this movie (as well as my other two Hallmark Channel films, "Santa Jr." and "Wedding Daze"), in which I played a bank janitor who gets possessed by Revenant so he can rob the bank.
    Anyway, there's a little insight into what goes into a Hallmark Channel movie. As to your question about why no more Halloween movies from them, I'm not sure. They actually had purchased another script for me that was intended for the following year, but it never went into production. Called "No Such Thing", it's about a ghost hunter who gets hired by a ghost (he doesn't realize she's a ghost) to get rid of another ghost. I also sold them a Valentine's Day-themed movie that never got made - I think they've decided to double down on Christmas!