How To Make A Monster And Teenage Caveman

How To Make A Monster And Teenage Caveman

A sibling of sorts to Showtime and Miramax's campy Rebel Highway films, the Creature Features series uses titles from American International Pictures' archive of '50s-era drive-in movies as the starting point for new B-movies with a distinctly retro feel. The Highway series recruited filmmakers like Joe Dante and Robert Rodriguez to re-imagine '50s pulp, and while none of the Creature Feature directors boast that much cachet, the series' latest releases should still delight auteurists. How To Make A Monster director George Huang made a striking debut with the uneven but promising 1994 Kevin Spacey vehicle Swimming With Sharks, but has subsequently floundered. Monster finds Huang once again exploring a Darwinian, hyper-competitive work environment, this time a flailing video-game company hoping for a hit. To help bolster its newest game, the company recruits three competitive video-game designers to help make its newest cyber-monster scary, offering up a million-dollar bonus as an incentive for the designer who does the best work. The company's tactic works too well, however, and after a narratively convenient power outage, the suit the designers are working on comes alive and begins killing its creators. Easily the weakest installment of the series so far, How To Make A Monster attempts to update the mad-scientist story for an era of Doom and Playstation. Huang's film intermittently qualifies as an intriguing experiment, but it quickly runs out of ideas and energy. It lets its geek flag fly early on, allotting space for a winking cameo from scream queen Julie Strain and offhand references to The Evil Dead and Tales From The Crypt, but the sense of fun dissipates quickly once the carnage begins. Though it gets by for a while on geeky energy alone, little in the film suggests that the term "cyber-thriller" is anything but an oxymoron. Exponentially more entertaining and distinctive, Teenage Caveman finds Kids and Bully director Larry Clark applying his favorite subject matter—the antics of the nubile and frequently unclothed—to a new genre. A wickedly funny example of directorial typecasting, Teenage Caveman takes place in a dystopian future where society has reverted to living in caves and hunting for food in bands. After a storm takes out their leader, a group of photogenic teens (including Andrew Keegan, who, in a typical bit, learns how to read from ancient letters to Penthouse) find themselves saved from certain death by a hedonistic, well-preserved couple who live in late-20th-century splendor, and invite their visitors to share in their comfort. Being teenagers in a Larry Clark film, the futuristic cave-dwellers soon doff their clothing, hit the bottle, and give into their darkest impulses, with disastrous results. Of course, the kids in Clark's movies generally behave like monsters, and Teenage Caveman simply takes his misanthropic impulses to their logical conclusion, positing the future as a nightmarish playground for the Party People Of The Damned. Metaphorical allusions to AIDS and substance abuse abound, but as always, Clark's mind remains gloriously stuck in the sewer. When it came out, Kids seemed open to interpretation both as shrill moralism and a neo-realist cautionary tale. The savagely funny Bully and Teenage Caveman, however, suggest that Clark is instead a blunt, over-the-top satirist and dirty old man in the Russ Meyer mold. The very qualities that will endear Teenage Caveman to Clark cultists (pitch-black humor, unrepentant voyeurism, a bleak view of humanity) will no doubt turn off the director's detractors. But love it or hate it, Teenage Caveman represents Clark's idiosyncratic vision in its purest form.

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