The Film Club members outside their high school.
What would it mean to a young filmmaker to capture footage of something legendary but unattainable so far? What if he was able to get film of the Loch Ness monster, or actual aliens from a UFO? And in this country’s backwoods areas, what about actual footage of the Sasquatch monster known as Bigfoot? That is the underlying theme of Reel Monsters, a 2022 release from independent film producer Mark Polonia. The film is set during three time frames in the family history of lead character Cory. As the film opens, we are informed of his family’s mobile history and events that are narrated by Cory as an adult (James Kelly). The bulk of the film occurs in the middle time frame, when teenager Cory (Dawson Hilfiger) has recently moved to the small Midwestern hometown of his mother Beth (Natalie Himmelberger) and father Will (Shane Nickerson). And the early time frame consists of a string of flashback scenes of Will as a teenager (Lucien Limberg) forty years prior. One thing that Cory and Will share together is a love of shooting film, and this pastime becomes the centerpiece of the plot.
School bullies put up a bike blockade.
Due to his family moving around a lot, Cory needs to take summer school classes. On his first day, Cory meets Mr. Kapatelis (Titus Himmelberger), a teacher and advisor for the school’s Film Club, who encourages Cory to join the club. There he meets Boone (Nicholas Olson), Sandra (Sophie Guss), and Millie (Grace Hines), and they quickly become friends. It looks like Cory will be having a pleasant summer doing projects with his new friends until things take a turn for the worse. When Cory invites his Film Club friends home, his mother is in a strange mood, telling them that Cory’s father has gone missing. When Cory presses her for more details, she cryptically tells him that it most likely has to do with a film Will made when they were teenagers. Later Cory searches for the film, going through various reels of Super 8 video lying around in their basement. After a lot of searching, Cory believes he has found the film in question, a reel that appears to show an actual Bigfoot sighting and a couple of armed men going after it. When he shows this to the Film Club they all decide to drop what they are doing and investigate. They decide to travel into the woods near the town and see if there is any truth to the video while looking for clues to Will’s disappearance.
The Film Club screening Cory’s father’s video.
The four are helped by Sandra’s older sister Bobbi (Hannah Guss) who agrees to drop them off at the edge of the woods. More mysterious events happen. While riding with Bobbi they are chased by two armed men who try to run them off the road. Later Cory notices an unknown car apparently running surveillance on his house. Oh, and two hapless bullies from school hassle them on campus and later seem to be following them around in the woods. The four friends start their search in the woods. The stage is set for some action and for some answers.
Boone and his sisters getting out of their car.
Reel Monsters is a family film mostly meant for kids. The action is mostly lukewarm and doesn’t have much suspense. There is nothing too threatening and not a lot of violence. The storyline is somewhat predictable but at the same time has a couple of positive twists that make you feel good at the end of the film. The performances are believable although none of the actors particularly stand out. Even Bigfoot is pretty mellow for a monster. Maybe that is the point of the story. Just think of Reel Monsters as pleasant viewing for a family night.
Cory encounters Bigfoot.
Boone, Cory, and Sandra approach a house at the end of the woods.
Nicholas Olson, who plays teenage filmmaker Boone in the movie, wears black high top chucks throughout the film. There are not any close up shots, as the cinematography focuses on wide angle and group shots of Boone with the other three Film Club members. Because of the eye catching appearance of the black high top Chuck Taylor, you do notice them in nearly all the scenes with Boone. The best scenes come toward the end of the film, as Cory, Nicholas, and Sandra follow along a fence line while looking for Cory’s dad, Will, and later after he has been found.
Boone walks over to meet Cory’s father.
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