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2011 In Review 30: Monster Lot 
 PostTue Jan 24, 2012 7:45 am
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This is a review of Monster Lot.

(Fair disclosure, this is the only game from 2011 I was unable to download. To write this review, I used Hachi's film festival stream and as such had access to pause and rewind features, but no control of the game itself.)

Of all the Film Festival Contest films, "Monster Lot" was the most ambitious. With it, Surlaw and RMZ set out to deliver nearly 40 minutes of 100% voiced material. For comparison, the average cartoon lasts somewhere between 20 and 24 minutes, before commercials. It was a herculean task and I salute their effort, but "Monster Lot" is simply too long for its own good. Some of their efforts pay off, though. One of the first things you'll notice about "Monster Lot" is that there's a main menu, much like on a DVD. You can choose to start from a particular chapter, view character bios and even concept art. This is a great touch and one nobody else thought of. It shows how much they cared about making this movie.

The movie takes place over one very busy day at Gillman Car Sales. Roland Gillman is being sued for numerous worker safety violations, new salesman Fred is challenging the status quo, and just what the hell is wrong with Syd and Eugene in the service department? The plots mix and mingle throughout the day, with occasional amusement. Actually, it's a pretty realistic depiction of the used car business. Forty minutes is a long time to be consistently entertaining though, and some of the jokes that would've been funny in the first ten minutes have lost their sparkle twenty minutes later. I feel like it would've worked better broken up into two or three episodes, especially since they went to all the trouble of making a chapter select menu.

The biggest problem with "Monster Lot" is the editing. There's some subtle puns which are fun, but they generally come at the end of a 5 or 6 sentence textbox and get overwhelmed by the setup. These big textboxes could've been broken up into two or three little boxes which would've allowed for more conversation between characters, fewer monologues, and better timing and delivery on the punchlines. There's a few gags based on song references and they work better than the puns because they're more concise in their delivery.

Another editing issue is the order of scenes. One recurring sequence involves Fred being introduced to the guys in the office. It feels like it belongs at the start of the story but instead is in the middle. At one point, a scene ends with Mr. Gillman summoning Syd to a meeting. A scene or two later somebody shows up looking for Syd for a totally different reason and Syd blows him off to go to the bathroom. That's a great setup for Syd to stumble into the meeting looking for a toilet and all sorts of potential avenues for humor and misunderstanding. Instead, we go see how a few other people are doing and by the time we get back to the meeting, Syd has already made his mark and left. It's a missed opportunity, made worse because of all the characters Syd is the most consistently funny and has the most listenable voice.

Actually, the voices are the cause of another issue. I complained that "Metal Gear Duck" needed subtitles to understand some of the dialogue and "Monster Lot" has the opposite problem. All of the voices are easy to understand, but sometimes are a bit slow. By the time you've read the dialogue, you're still waiting around for the voice to finish which can sometimes spoil the punchline. By getting rid of the subtitles, I think "Monster Lot" would have a lot more real estate for things to be happening while people are talking which would help break up the monotony.

Talentwise, the voices are hit and miss. Surlaw really gets a workout, delivering some great impressions of Zoidberg and Meatwad while also coming up with some good original ones. RMZ holds up his end, but sometimes gets a little samey. Three guys have the same kind of fratboy attitude with minor modifications. Sometimes, it seems like they're trying so hard to do a voice that they aren't able to emote or deliver a punchline. Some of the voices are a little slow, but only Loretta is truely awful.

The graphics neither stand out or detract from the experience. The cars are really nice, there's textbox portraits for every character, some nice little animations. It's all pretty good, but never excellent. Watching on a stream I lose some of the detail, so I can't judge too deeply. My only complaint is kind of goofy, but something about the exact shade of blue chosen to be the exterior of Gillman's building seemed off. I have no idea why.

Ultimately, I think the pacing and editing issues really hurt the final product. In a vaccuum, a lot of the material is funny (Ie, "What did the ghost have for lunch?" "The filet of soul!" or "What did the spiderwoman do for a living?" "She managed a website!") but somehow doesn't work within the confines of the movie. I suspect the deadline was an issue and that Surlaw and RMZ had to scramble and just read the lines out of the script without having time to edit and really nuance their performances. Still, it's impressive that they were able to give so many characters distinct voices and have so many minutes of dialogue. It's not laugh out loud funny, but there's a few good smiles here and there. I wouldn't go into it expecting Surlaw's usual charm, but if you like RedMaverickZero's "OHR House: Heroes" series, you might like this.

Score: 6/10
2011 Score (Per Jun 18th): 67/100

Part of Gomey's 2011 Year In Review
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