This film begs the obvious question, “How do you evaluate a movie designed to be so bad it’s good?”
The Amateur Monster Movie is a genre spoof of the low-budget monster film, and is the first feature film written, directed, produced, co-edited, and starred in by 22-year-old Milwaukeean Kyle Richards. Contrary to what I was expecting prior to seeing the film, The Amateur Monster Movie does not lampoon the long list of amateur films designed to be horror, but rather the growing list of comedic monster films poking fun at the horror genre. In other words, The Amateur Monster Movie is in fact a spoof of a spoof, a movie poking fun at failed attempts at humor more than at horror. We’re two degrees of mockery removed from the original earnest monster movie, which makes this film all the more complicated to analyze.
I won’t waste much time here going into the plot, but the most important thing to know here is that you get two monsters for the price of one. That’s right, this is a zombie movie and a werewolf movie. That’s value. (And there is never any explanation of a connection between the two. Or a cause for either. They just both happen to turn up on the same island. Cadaverous Island. Yep.) Basically, the opening scene shows a group of boy scouts being attacked by a werewolf on Cadaverous Island. Cut to a high school, where Walter, the best friend of one of the scouts, learns of the incident and vows to avenge his friend’s death. He, of course, gathers the obligatory group of cohorts: a stoner slacker (played by Kyle Richards), a hot girl, a creepy old man, a pair of cops, a few botanists, etc., most of whom die during the course of the movie. There’s lots of blood, lots of gore, and no attempt at any explanation behind the strange events.
The writing here in general was quite good. There were many laugh-out-loud lines that perfectly captured the absurdist travesty that is much of the dialogue that dominates many amateur monster movies. What it really came down to for me, however, was the acting. It has been said that only the best singers are able to do a perfect impression of terrible singing, and I feel that this is an apt analogy for the acting in this film. For a movie like this to work, it needs to be believable as an actual attempt at legitimate filmmaking. In order to really pull this off, actors cannot simply do their most over-the-top, chewing-the-scenery impression of bad acting. There is a surprising amount of delicacy to bad acting, and it was touch and go here. Unfortunately, I think the worst offender was the lead actor playing Walter. While he grew on me towards the end, his overacting and frequent smirks to the camera broke the illusion for me. There were some actors who mastered this art, however, including Richards himself, and several of the small roles. When I was able to believe that these people were honestly trying their hardest to make a good movie yet failing miserably, the film was absolutely hilarious and brilliant.
I definitely enjoyed myself during this movie, it was the perfect late-night snack after a long day of much more serious films. Richards seems very familiar and comfortable with the genre of film that he lovingly mocks, and the result is a film that stands on it’s own. This is an admirable first attempt by Richards, who shows a surprising amount of wit and insight for such a ridiculously over-the-top gore-fest. I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.