Little heard of and rarely referenced in the Mockbuster conversations, The Asylum's take on Cloverfield is in many ways, if not every way, superior to the film it riffs on.
Set in Tokyo and seen through the eyes and lens of two American documentarians, sisters, Monster concerns a massive earthquake that is not at all an earthquake, but rather a massive tentacled thing rising from the tectonic depths beneath us. From there the story is pretty much the same as Cloverfield: the sisters try to survive while everything around them goes to shit. A bit of added fear and confusion in that they're foreigners, which works, and a bit of exposition meant to establish the sisters as idealistic, impassioned filmmakers devoted to their subject, global warming, which does not work.
This was my one problem with Monster, which is why I'm mentioning it up front, to get it out of the way, because the rest of what I have to say will be positively glowing. So here goes: there is zero believability in these women as filmmakers about such a serious subject. Little sis comprises the entire crew, for fuck's sake. Why travel all the way to Japan to shoot a movie and then take just one, non-professional, totally inexperienced woman-child? And who interviews a CEO in a tank top?
(The CEO isn't in the tank top, she is, the interviewer. Just in case there was confusion.)
But this petty grievance aside, where Monster succeeds most is in it's commitment and loyalty to the documentary style: crediting characters Sarah Lynch and Erin Sullivan as directors within the context of the film, and for camerawork in the actual credits (For sisters, they tend to shoot each others boobs a lot. I'm just saying.); maiming the film with splotchy sound, pixellated images and cut-outs, the requisite shaky camerawork. But that's where Monster and Cloverfield diverge. Wheras the latter put most all its style in the physical - that is, how the person holding the camera affected what it saw and how - Monster divides its style between the physical and the technical, making the camera more of a character, faulty in its own right, and the ultimate narrator. I'm not saying Cloverfield didn't play with the technical, they just didn't do it as well as Monster does.
As for the other performers, Ms. Lynch (Sarah Lieving) and Ms. Sullivan (Erin Evans, though she acts under the name Sullivan), aside from that bit of unpleasantness I mentioned above, they are superbly convincing as disaster-struck foreigners and concerned siblings, and it is here, in their relationship with one another, and the camera, that the true emotional power of the film arrives. As the danger mounts each sister responds differently to the camera's presence, the little sis caring fuck-all about it anymore and the big sis growing proportionally more devoted to her film, now a different film entirely.
I'm going to back-peddle a little here. It strikes me that perhaps the sisters' unbelievability in their professions was intentional, and the writer may have been looking to establish them as people with ambitions bigger than their talents, more passionate than capable, and thus at a total loss in this calamity; the least suitable in the most incredible. If that's the case, then I eat my above words and this pair of actresses is flawless. However it could just be that I'm reading too much into it. Either way, that's the point of a good film, right? To intrigue you, on whatever minute or random level.
Bottom line, Monster, to me at least, is the most realistic film in The Asylum's catalog, and one of the best, if not my favorite. The action is FX light, the emotional conflict takes precedent over the history, science or mythology of the creature and for the concept - that of a live-filmed, monster-related disaster - it is scarier, more engaging and more heart-wrenching than Cloverfield.
In this case, as far as I'm concerned, Mockbuster beats Blockbuster, hands down.