The Monster Movie Review
Written by John Colianni
Released by A24 Films
Written and directed by Bryan Bertino
2016, 91 minutes, Rated R
Theatrical release on November 6th, 2016
Zoe Kazan as Kathy
Ella Ballentine as Lizzy
Chris Web as Monster
The world of horror has a fantastic mix of vast, over the top spectacles and small, intimate stories and casts that can cater to any taste within any subgenre. So much can be said and portrayed when even the most minimal of casts and, sets and plotlines are treated with respect and care from competent writers and directors. In a time when so many different movies are trying to establish longer runs with sequel after sequel, sometimes it's comforting to know that I can sit down and watch a single, standalone film that is beautifully constructed from start to finish. Writer/director Bryan Bertino’s creature feature The Monster is exactly that.
Young Lizzy’s relationship with her mother Kathy is the furthest thing from functional. Her childhood has been plagued with parents who have been consumed by addiction. She is a child who has been on the receiving end of abuse for so long, she has lost faith in the one figure in her life that should be there to shield her from such horrors. When the two leave for a trip that will likely result in Kathy losing her daughter for good, a new surprising challenge awaits them on the road, one that will test their love for one another and their will to survive.
The Monster has a perfect balance of character development progression. There aren’t many instances in cinema, let alone a suspense or horror film, that garner the type of emotion that Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine deliver to the audience. Through flashbacks, you experience Lizzy’s strife, having to live with a parent suffering from addiction. The physical monster they encounter on their trip is a perfect metaphor for her experiences due to inattentive parents who, instead of being nurturing, let their substance abuse define them. Visually, there is a creature that comes from the darkness to in terror, but the terror that hits hardest is the real life struggle that more than a few viewers will be able to identify with. Combine that raw emotion with practical, but aesthetically pleasing effects and I dare you to find something wrong with The Monster.
Movies can be a perfect kind of escapism. We’re all too familiar with the tropes of ghosts and possession. We have been hiding our faces behind blankets while victims are dismembered by masked killers and out-of-this-world creatures for what seems like an eternity. Ironically what can make many movie-goers most uncomfortable are real life situations. The ability to tackle a subject such as family dysfunction and abuse in a well-thought horror film is far from what we’re used to as viewers. Bryan Bertino’s attention to character development and interaction is only the tip of the iceberg. Lizzy and Kathy are perfectly integrated a horrific scenario that just happens to be the living personification of what each of them have to overcome to make one another whole. The Monster is quite possibly the closest thing to perfection I have seen all year, and I don’t say that often. This is a must-see.