Monday, October 20, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXVIII

How to Make a Monster
Not to be confused with the 1958 movie by the same name, this made-for-TV mauler is a shallow take on video game development, artificial intelligence, the potential for avarice in the technology business, and virtual reality. Can't get Robert Culp? Steven Culp kind of looks like him and doesn't act any better. Wonder what Carnivale's Clea Duvall has done before? Look no further. The basic gist of the flick is that a video game project is about to go over time and over budget -- and that it's not test marketing well in the scary department at all. So a misfit trio of developers featuring the requisite brute, phiolosopher, and nerd (played by a Rick Moranis lookalike, pretty much) is brought in to up the terror ante. Philosopher Sol does a Net search for "monster" and imports the results into his "million-dollar AI engine." Julie Strain is brought in for some Lara Croft-like motion capture, and the movie goes downhill from there. The monster AI gains sentience during a storm and takes over the telemetry suit used for the motion capture. The suit absorbs body parts of the people it kills -- and continues to play the very game the developers are making as it attempts to kill them. In the end, humanity wins and loses in one fell swoop, as the sole survivor falls prey to the very philosophical and political foibles that got the team into the mess in the first place. That '70s Show star -- and Ashton Kucher's Punk'd patsy -- Danny Masterson co-stars in an uncredited cameo as Duvall's character's physically and emotionally abusive boyfriend. His enthusiastic email exchange with heroine Laura Wheeler is not to be missed.

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