DIRECTED BY: Brian Lupo
FEATURING: Leada Ghareaghadje, Lindsay Coffelt, Donovan Vincent Kit, Amanda Rivera, Joe Hammernik
PLOT: Four teenagers stranded in rural California are stalked by a serial killer called “M.O.N.”
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Simply put, it’s just not weird; instead, it’s a rehash of clichés from other, better horror movies that aims for competence and misses its mark completely. A couple scenes (like the ending, where one of the victims watches a video of the killer, dressed as a clown, copulating with a mannequin) are slightly weird, but none of it is even remotely memorable.
COMMENTS: To borrow the classic line from Thomas Hobbes, this amateur no-budget horror movie is, alas, “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” I guess I should append “mercifully” to the last item on that list, although M.O.N. manages to pack a surprising amount of nothing into its 67-minute running time. Whole minutes go by with nothing but the sound of screams, or the sight of characters stumbling in and out of forests. If you’ve ever wondered whether snuff films could be boring, here is your answer.
After a long pre-credits sequence involving a woman being gratuitously tortured, M.O.N. shifts its attention to a car full of high schoolers going down a wilderness road. The car’s lone male is of the “macho jerk” variety familiar to slasher film afficionados, and he has to utter lines like, “Hey, don’t mess around, that s*** ain’t funny. I’m telling you right now, if any hairy-a** animal tries to shoot a load in my a**, I’ll snap a d*** off.” Let it be known: acting and dialogue are not this film’s strong suits. After some more driving and yelling, a woman runs out of nowhere and gets hit by the car; a few more minutes of yelling and accusations later, the teens discover that the car won’t start.
So naturally, they split up and wander aimlessly around the spoooky countryside, then start getting killed off in slow, dull ways. These scenes share the same penchant for mindless, unfettered brutality as something of the Friday the 13th ilk, but without any of the redeeming talent or resourcefulness. The jump scares and random loud noises are all present and accounted for, but since M.O.N. has the production values of a suburban haunted house and is largely shot through shaky handheld camera, it fails to evoke anything but the occasional chuckle.
By far the film’s most successful sequence arrives late in the film, when one of the girls wakes up in the woods with her leg chained to a refrigerator and a camera sitting next to her on a tripod. Yes, the set-up is clearly a rip-off of Saw and yes, it goes on forever, but—especially when the girl starts talking to an unheard person she seems to think is in the fridge—the scene is both odd and economical in a way that the rest of the film direly lacks. It’s still not good, per se, but at least it’s intermittently entertaining.
I’d love to say that writer/director/producer/cinematographer/editor Brian Lupo had his heart in the right place when he made M.O.N., and the film does contain a few set-pieces that could become mildly creepy with a little more thought and money. On the whole, though, it’s grating, icky, mean-spirited, and incoherent. At least it’s short.