Movie Review: The Monster

the monster poster

@lcfremont reviews...

Bryan Bertino announced his place in horror with his writing and directorial debut The Strangers. Although it doesn’t work for everyone, this film fan found it to be an exceptional home invasion film, mostly, because the intruders had no real motive. HIs follow up, Mockingbird, simply didn’t pack the same punch and one had to wonder if Bertino was simply suffering the sophomore slump or was The Strangers the only trick in his bag? Wonder no more and rejoice in a truly suspenseful monster movie that also manages to touch your heart.

Starring Zoe Kazan (Fracture) and Ella Ballentine, The Monster is an emotionally complex movie that tackles the parent/child relationship set against the backdrop of a truly standout monster movie. Lizzy (Ballentine) is introduced as the emotionally mature, despite her age, daughter of Kathy (Kazan). It is quickly established that Lizzy is the parent in this situation and she has been forced to grow up quickly as the daughter of an alcoholic mother. Rather than spend an inordinate amount of time on this home situation, we learn about their relationship via flashbacks throughout the film. As the two girls drive to drop Lizzy off at her dad’s house, they hit a wolf and their car is damaged. In the middle of the woods, at night, in the rain, these two ladies are alone and helpless. Thankfully, this is not one of those horror movies where our characters, inexplicably, don’t have cell phones and they aren’t in an area where cell reception doesn’t work. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the tow truck and ambulance are going to arrive in a timely manner. 

the monster image

Lizzy shows her smarts when she asks why the wolf ran into the road in the first place. When her mother tells her that it was probably running, she asks, “From what?” Well, the monster. You don’t have to wait a long time to see the monster and this was appreciated. In fact, everything with the monster is very straightforward. A monster in the woods, afraid of the light, is hunting prey. Any prey. The way that Lizzy and Kathy react to the situation all hinges on their complicated relationship and is there a more complex relationship than the one between mother and daughter? To see Kathy turn into the mom that Lizzy always hoped she would be is equal parts elating and heartbreaking. I cannot stress enough how well Bertino handled the emotional complexities of a child dealing with an alcoholic parent and that is only part of what elevates this movie to more than just a creature feature.

An excellent example of why less is more, The Monster takes place almost entirely against the backdrop of the car’s headlights and an equally minimal score does an excellent job of ramping up the tension. This is a film that knows exactly what it is and what it hopes to achieve and uses only what it deems necessary to meet it’s goal. Ballentine is a standout and the monster is exactly the thing of children’s nightmares. The Monster is everything you never knew you were missing in your life.

A24 releases The Monster on November 11 in Cinemas & On Demand. The film is available now exclusively on DirecTV.

Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont

Images: IMDb