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How to Make a Monster Reviews

One in a series of made-for-cable, in-name-only remakes of cheesy cult classics, this sci-fi horror picture is tailor-made for people who hate video games. Where the original film involved a demented special effects artist who turned innocent teens into killer zombies, the 2001 version revolves around a trio of socially maladjusted computer programmers hired to create a really scary monster for a role-playing game called "Evil-ution." The game is mere weeks from going into production and the beta tests have been a disaster; there's an insane deadline and the promise of a million-dollar bonus the programmers can share or compete for, as they see fit. Each comes with his own special expertise: Hardcore (wrestler Tyler Mane) is a weapons freak, Bug (Jason Marsden) creates chilling sound files and Solomon (Karim Prince) designs A.I. systems that allow games to adapt to user strategies. They're all paranoid, possessive and total geeks. Rounding out the development group are naive intern Laura (Clea DuVall) and go-getting business supervisor Drummond (Steven Culp). Early on, twitchy Bug has the brilliant idea of hiring B-movie icon Julie (Julie Strain, playing a thinly veiled version of herself) to get naked, strap on a motion-capture suit and embody the game's ass-kicking warrior princess. But the electrical storm that follows her brief-but-memorable appearance stomps everyone's buzz: Lightning strikes the building and fries the computer's hard drive, the back-up disk vanishes and everyone is convinced that one of the others is an industrial spy. Solomon stays late to recreate the work, and the next day Hardcore and Bug discover his mutilated corpse. Quicker than you can say, "Who's the killer?" the building's security system locks them all in, putting them at the mercy of their own game, which has taken on a lethal life of its own and killed Solomon by animating the motion-capture suit. Who will survive, and what will be left of them? Writer-director George Huang has his subtexts firmly in place — the titular "monster" alludes in equal parts to the video-game boogey man and the kind of ruthless personality forged in the dog-eat-dog world of business — and makes the most of what is essentially a one-set, five-person stalk-and-slash picture. DuVall is her usual excellent self, though the ever-mutating motion-capture-suit monster will be familiar to anyone who's seen 1999's VIRUS.