Tuesday, May 23, 2017
DIRECTOR: Ivan Silvestrini
Brandon W. Jones
Katherine Kelly Lang
A young pop star who is taking her baby on a road trip to their grandmother's house decides to take a detour when she believes that her husband may be cheating on her. She is also driving the world's newest and safest vehicle. This automobile is the panic room on wheels. On the detour in the remote desert, she hits a deer. When she gets out of the car to inspect the damage, she is locked out of the car. She now must fight to gain access to the vehicle as temperatures rise and save her young son.
Monolith which is also known as Locked In in the UK and had the great working title of Trapped Child is part Science Fiction part Thriller part Survival Horror. The film is a simple one. A woman takes a detour through the desert in the world's safest car. The car is basically impenetrable. When she ends up getting locked out, she must try and get her son out as the temperatures soar inside the car. It's a fight to save her child's life, but she must also try and survive herself. A race against time.
Reading about Monolith and some of the reviews on IMDb, I was disheartened, to say the least. Going off the reviews on the website, people were not kind. The movie had some of the harshest and most negative critiques I had seen in recent memory. Only two of the reviews that I read were positive. The rest had absolutely slammed it and gave it a one out of ten. I was a little put-off but decided to give it a watch anyway. After watching Monolith, I'm glad that I gave this one a chance as there are things to enjoy about it. It's far from perfect, but a one out of ten just feels unjustified.
For a movie that played at Frightfest and was chucked on the Lifetime channel. I feel that a lot of the reviews pointed out the fact that this was slapped with the 'Lifetime' movie banner. So it's common knowledge that a Lifetime movie has a sort of stigma about it. They are known for doing really terrible biopics, women in danger films and sappy romance pictures. While this is about a mother fighting for survival, this has to be the most gorgeous and visual effects heavy 'Lifetime' movie ever made if you're gonna lump it into that group.
I think the film will sadly always be classed as that now. A movie that was probably made to be a video on demand title or the director had aspirations of releasing it in cinemas. I think Lifetime got the chance to show it and the film is now tarnished as this Lifetime movie. This is just my thoughts because a vast majority of the negative reviews point it out. Even one going as far as to call it the worst Lifetime movie ever made. I don't agree with that for one single second. This has elements that I really enjoyed and some elements that are sure to cause outrage as seen on IMDb.
I will start by saying that the cinematography in this movie is stunning. It is probably the best that I've seen so far in 2017. The camera sweeping over the gorgeous desert and terrain of Utah looked like a promotional tourism video that is trying to show you how wondrous Utah looks. I cannot stress the point enough that I was mesmerised by just how epic these helicopter shots were. When we aren't confined to the ground, we are being shown the rock formations and multicoloured land, and all I wanted to do was jump on a plane and fly off to Utah for a visit.
When it comes to the visual effects, they are hit and miss for me. But I will say that for an apparent Lifetime movie, this has to be the most effects-heavy of the lot. You can see that the director has used visual effects and CGI on a lot of the stuff in the desert. Like a huge fire so someone can hopefully see or come rescue her, and the all-terrain car up the hill final scene was actually cringe-worthy. Easily some of the worst effects that I've seen outside of an Asylum production but at least the director tried, and I'm sure this had budget constraints.
The big issue that Monolith faces and where it loses points are for the silly character decisions. I'm not a mother or father and don't have children, so a lot of the choices made by the mother are probably warranted for a woman being in a frantic state. I can't know for sure. Pushing an unpenetrable car over a cliff with your child inside to get the doors open seems like a really dumb decision. As does lighting a fire right in front of the car while your kid sits inside. She does it to get the car to think there is a fire outside but doesn't think that maybe once you try to smoke out the car to get the doors unlocked, your child inside might die from smoke inhalation? She also chats to a good-looking guy in the gas station while three hipster chicks take your child right past you and outside into their car. This just seems like bad mothering.
We also have a scene where the mother doesn't really think and gives her kid her mobile which contains the app that controls the car. Hence the child locking the car when the mother gets out to inspect the damage of a deer being hit. How about the world's smartest car not being able to take the voice command of the owner who is having a smoke in the car with the window down but it takes it as a fire inside the car yet can sense boulders as it speeds towards them. Why would an intelligent car take a woman through the desert terrain and off-road just because of an accident on the highway? Wouldn't the world's smartest car be able to determine the issues if she were to break down and not have enough fuel while off the highway?
Another issue that had me questioning this movie was the subplot with the mother's best friend. The whole event is set into motion when our main character believes her partner is cheating on her with her best friend. This never gets confirmed. The movie just ends and yet we are left wondering was her douchebag husband cheating on her with her best mate? Also, if you were outside grandma's house with the child and you plan on confronting a possible cheating husband, why wouldn't you just leave the kid with the grandmother in case he was cheating, and things got physical if you caught him out? Another situation that seemed like bad parenting.
I'll end this review on mentioning Katrina Bowden's performance. I really dig her as an actress. She was great in 30 Rock, Nurse 3D, and Tucker And Dale vs Evil. I think she delivers quite a frantic performance. I felt sorry for her character at times even if I thought she made the wrong choices when it came to trying to get her kid out of the car. I think she manages to hold the entire film on just her shoulders and shows that she can be a solid lead. The material might not be the best, but she tackled the role head on and deserves some praise for that.
DEATH TOLL: 0
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A deer is hit by a car.
- A woman hits a feral dog in the head with a wrench.
- A woman is bitten on the ankle by a feral dog.
- A deer's intestines are shown.
Monolith isn't what I would class as a straight up horror film. This tries for more of an intense thriller approach with elements of sci-fi due to the AI inside of the vehicle. It's a movie that lacks scares and suspense, intelligent character decisions, a subplot that gets left by the wayside and some very questionable CGI. Monolith does have some of the best cinematography that I've seen all year and a great central performance from Katrina Bowden. If you want to throw this into the Lifetime film group, this has to be their most ambitious production to date. Just watch for all of the gorgeous sweeping camera angles and picturesque shots of the Utah desert.