I don’t like (un)reality TV, it just isn’t my cup of tana leaf tea. I don’t care about the people in the shows and it seems so blatantly staged that it grates on my nerves. Maybe it's because I like documentaries, that the scripted reality offends me in some way. I did like Making Monsters on the Travel Channel, about the people who work at Distortions Unlimited (the mask and Halloween people). Mainly I liked it because it stayed on making the masks and props, which interests me.
The SyFy Channel (I know, I can’t say or write it without laughing to this day), which seems to be a waste basket of cheap rip-off-direct-to-video movies and reality shows, has a new program that combines both. Monster Man is set around practical effects man Cleve Hall as he works with his family (ex-wife and two grown daughters) at SOTA Productions for Roy Knyrim.
On the surface this should be a show I would love. Monsters, practical (not CGI) effects, and a veteran makeup man to bring it all to life. After watching two episodes I’m a little less than thrilled.
Part of the problem with this show is it has all the reality show tropes that tick me off. Everything seems staged, to the family strife to the drama with making the monsters. In the first episode Cleve has to make a two headed shark for 2-Headed Shark Attack (2012). The client comes in with the shark’s heads stacked on top of one another (bunk sharks?), and Cleve shows him how having the heads side by side would be better. The whole scenario felt scripted to me. I could see a producer going to the client and saying “So come in and tell them you want bunk sharks, and Cleve will save the day by showing you a better design”. Maybe it wasn't, but that's how it felt to me.
So if I don’t like the reality show part of it, what do I think of the monsters?
The second episode they had to make a werewolf for Hallow Pointe. The werewolf head came off looking like a high school football mascot with a huge schnoz. I know effects are meant to be filmed, and don't look as cool in the harsh rays of daylight, but this head was almost comical. I'm a big fan of practical effects, and I applaud Hallow Pointe director Thomas J. Churchill for going that route instead of crappy CGI. Still he shot it in the best angels to make it scary, which is quick cuts where you hardly see it.
Another thing that annoyed me was that the titular Monster Man, Cleve, hardly did anything creative with this werewolf build. His daughter, Constance, designed it. The sculptor did the clay version, and the molder cast everything and did the foam. If he’s the Monster Man, would think he would do more than do painting and gluing fur (Don’t get me started on the visit to the guard dog school to get “inspiration” for the werewolf-staged, staged staged). If he's the monster man, I want to see him more hands on throughout the whole monster making process.
I think SyFy missed an opportunity here. They could have shown the episode of Monster Man where they create the effects, and follow it with the actual film they worked on. It could be a Saturday movie event each week. I'd tune in for that.
I did like the parts where they were fabricating the creatures and I wish they would concentrate more on that. I also like the backdrop of a struggling effects company trying to make it in a world where CGI has almost all but replaced them.
I really wanted to like this show, and I’ll probably watch the remaining episodes with the hope it gets better, but in the end it doesn't get this monster kiddo excited. Given SyFy’s track record I shouldn't be surprised that I’m let down.
Until Next Time,