Friday, December 16, 2016
The Monster (2016)
DIRECTOR: Bryan Bertino
WRITER: Bryan Bertino
Kathy is a young mother and an addict. Kathy and her young daughter Lizzy have an incredibly fractured relationship. While driving down a deserted stretch of road in the middle of the woods, they end up hitting a wolf which causes their vehicle to crash in the wilderness. Now stranded in the middle of nowhere and waiting for help, they will soon come face to face with a terrifying monster. They will have to confront their fear and fight for survival.
When I first got wind that Bryan Bertino was making a monster movie after his, dark, brilliant, and efficiently creepy, home invasion film The Strangers. I was so excited to see what he would come up with as he is an incredibly competent filmmaker who can build tension and suspense very well. The Strangers is a testament to that. I am sadly yet to see his sophomore film Mockingbird, but the reviews were not as kind as those handed out to The Strangers.
The Monster is another movie that debuted at a few horror film festivals in the latter half of 2016 before it got its limited release into theatres in November. I heard a lot of people rave about it. Word of mouth from critics was also very positive. Watching the film only days before the end of the year, I was able to witness the movie be included on several best of horror movie lists. At this rate, I was incredibly excited to see what all the fuss was about.
Two years ago, there was an Australian horror movie released called The Babadook. The film was about a mother and her young son who must confront their fears when an evil presence plagues their house. It also dealt heavily with personal grief and the psychological effects that this fear plays on the family. The Monster in a way felt very similar to The Babadook. The movie is a monster movie yet plays with themes such as fractured relationships and addiction. These two films also felt like kindred spirits in a way. Only they had different outcomes.
When it comes to the creature feature element of The Monster, I personally felt this was where the film let me down the most. The monster itself looked alright when it came to the design but the execution of it while in motion left a lot to be desired. I have to admit, though, I prefer the man in the suit look over some CGI monstrosity that didn't have enough money put into it so you can clearly see it's done by way of computer. The movie has a few cheesy looking monster moments, but it reminded me of those early throwback monster films.
The winning aspect of The Monster is the acting from Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine. Playing a mother and daughter who have a fractured relationship due to Zoe Kazan's character being an addict, abusive, and uncaring adds some depth to the otherwise pretty generic story. I thought both actresses were in excellent form and delivered two characters who I actually cared for and were hoping to see them make it out of this horrible situation alive. Zoe Kazan is fantastic, and she played tortured very well.
The movie suffers from some pretty silly character decisions which clearly fall back on Bryan Bertino's script. The movie reveals that the monster is afraid of the light. Even a torch is enough to scare the monster away. When the two are trapped in the back of an ambulance, they decide to leave it and head into darkness with fire. Why not see it out until daylight and make your escape? The torch will be enough to keep it away, so just stay put and shine the light on the monster if it comes back. Little things like this made me question the stupidity in their decisions.
I think another issue that I had with The Monster was the fact that this movie really builds to nothing much at all. The plot beats and set pieces felt very basic. So their car breaks down, a monster stalks and attacks, people who are sent to help are killed off one by one, the mother and daughter must fight and kill the monster. The movie felt like it lacked any real shocks or some curveball to shake things up in the story. The film has no jaw on the floor moments.
Lastly, the movie should keep most horror fans happy when it comes to bloodshed and gore. While the movie isn't extreme by any means, it does deliver enough of the red stuff to be listed as gory. We have severed limbs flying at the screen, people are mauled gruesomely, and the monster does stalk and prey on a few people. All in all, I think it did its job in delivering the carnage. I do enjoy the fact that the violence is all practical.
DEATH TOLL: 4
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A wolf is hit by a car.
- A woman hits her head on a steering wheel in a crash.
- A man is dragged off by a monster.
- A man's arm is severed by a monster.
- A woman is slashed down her hip.
- Two paramedics are mauled by a monster.
- A woman is bitten on the shoulder and throat by a monster.
- A monster is set on fire.
After watching The Monster, I can't in good conscience say that this is the great film that I had heard a lot of critics and horror fans raving about. For me, The Monster is a passable creature feature that boasts two fantastic performances from Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine. The movie also tackles some pretty dark subject matter like addiction. Sadly, the movie feels very run of the mill, there are no real surprises or shocks to be found. If you want a straightforward monster movie, this is the movie for you.