WHILE HORROR FANS have been enjoying something of a renaissance of late—It Follows; The Invitation; The Witch; Don’t Breathe; The Autopsy of Jane Doe—the old-fashioned monster lovers among us have been left mostly wanting, forced to content ourselves with CGI Saturday nights on SyFy.
But then there were rumblings…
Japan’s Godzilla had a cool Resurgence. America’s Godzilla/King Kong “monsterverse” was announced. A reimagined Universal “monsterverse” was also announced. And just recently, from out of a dark, stormy night, there emerged The Monster, a ferocious little movie that proves there are always new monsters to be imagined.
Written and directed by Bryan Bertino (The Strangers; Mockingbird), The Monster begins as a deeply-felt domestic drama about the tortured relationship between Kathy (Zoe Kazan), a divorced young mother with a substance abuse problem, and her longsuffering daughter, Lizzie (Ella Ballentine). Both emotionally and psychologically the two are miles apart, yet on a long road trip to drop Lizzie off at her dad’s we can feel the yearning in both hearts for something better—even as Kathy is haunted by the notion that she’s screwed-up once too many times and may never see her daughter again.
But along the way, on a dark, lonely road in a rainstorm, the journey ends abruptly when mother and daughter are run off the road and left stranded in the middle of nowhere with only a stalking monster for company.
Yes, a monster. Just like that. No warning. No explanation. No context. It’s just there. As a monster should be.
It’s a jarring shift in reality, and a tribute to Bertino and his two wonderfully talented stars that we have by this point in the story become so caught-up in the dynamics of Kathy and Lizzie’s drama that we are as shocked and disoriented as they are when the monster appears. Talk about life interrupted!
And the monster itself is a cool beastie. Rendered as a practical effect, it fully inhabits the movie in a way no CGI character could hope to. It’s physical presence is palpable—big, black, toothy, somewhat mammalian, yet suggestive of something extraterrestrial. And it’s hungry—oh, boy, is it hungry—as anyone who stops to aid Kathy and Lizzie learns the hard way.
Photography and editing are first-rate, as is the engrossing score from veteran composers Tom Hadju and Andy Milburn.
Check out The Monster as soon as you can. We need to encourage this sort of thing.
Here’s the trailer.