Mail Order Monster Movie Review
Written by John Colianni
Released by Film Mode Entertainment
Directed by Paulina Lagudi
Written by Paulina Lagudi and Marc Prey
2018, 89 minutes, Not Rated
Released on November 6th, 2018
Charisma Carpenter as Sydney Hart
Josh Hopkins as Roy Pepper
Madison Horcher as Sam Pepper
Lea Hutton Beasmore as Teacher
Horror is a unique genre. While it has become synonymous with blood, gore, possession, demons and slashers, there are the exceptions to every rule. Severed limbs, ancient evils and the occasional monster usually aren’t what you think of when a family friendly film comes to mind. Not every plot has to have an audience cowering behind their popcorn or fearing what wait for them in the darkness. Sometimes the woes of real life and how children cope with the world are real enough to carry any story. Paulina Lagudi’s Mail Order Monster is just that.
Sam Pepper (Madison Horcher), age twelve, is a kid who loves comics and tinkering with gadgets. Small for her age, she has become the target of bullies at school who see her as an inferior. Three years prior Sam lost her mother in a tragic car accident that left her and her father, Roy (Josh Hopkins; Quantico, Cougar Town ), to take care of themselves. Now with the addition of Roy’s girlfriend Cindy (Charisma Carpenter; Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Girl in Woods), Sam feels more alone than ever. When she finds an ad for a Mail Order Monster, she sends away for an unlikely robot friend but ends up being something more.
Mail Order Monster is a kick right in the feels. There isn’t going to be a killer robot rampaging around, tearing off arms or legs. There isn’t going to be rivers of blood or intense moments of dread or fear. Real life typically isn’t those things. The characters aren’t hiding any sinister agendas that come to fruition at the climax of the story. What is explored are the coping mechanisms a child goes through during a major trauma in their life. The death of Sam’s mother causes her to ostracize her friends and father, leaving her to think that she can handle her ever-changing world alone. When that proves to be harder than anticipated, her M.O.M. (such a perfect play on words) guides her through her troubles of bullying and is that companion she needs to grow up faster than she could do on her own. Having a female child as the protagonist was the perfect choice, as the role of someone who loves comics and building robots tends to only be explored by male characters. As for the M.O.M. robot, the design isn’t overly complicated and fits perfectly into the tone of the story. It has a playful look that looks like it could’ve been built by a child (with the help of a comprehensive instruction manual).
Writers Paulina Lagudi and Marc Prey wrote a compelling family friendly plot that just to happens to include a monster companion to an adolescent girl who loves comics and quasi-advanced robotics. There aren’t any massive plot twists that are meant to take the audience by surprise, but this isn’t a bad thing. All horror deals with trauma but not all trauma has to be when your loved ones have their flesh peeled from their bones and fashioned into clothing by a serial killer. Sometimes the tragic death of a loved one is horrific enough. Mail Order Monster conveys its messaging through believably written character dialogue and a cohesive plot, something that over-the-top budget movies can still miss. M.O.M. can be enjoyed by the entire family and sometimes that’s all you really need.