Sunday, December 11, 2016

[Review] The Monster

Bryan Bertino's The Monster quietly crashes in as a decent late-season horror entry. It's not a game-changer or anything, but this minimally told tale is one that avid genre fans won't want to miss.

Kathy (Zoe Kazan) is a disheveled and neglectful single mother, basking in empty beer bottles and constantly oversleeping. Her precocious daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) seems to be the more responsible one, making breakfast and packing (for the both of them) in preparation for a road trip to see her estranged father. During the hostile drive, their car breaks down and the two are left stranded on a secluded backroad. But they're not completely alone... There's an elusive beast lurking in the forest, and this broken mother and daughter relationship must come together in order to survive.

The first 12 minutes or so are a bit obnoxious, as our two main characters awkwardly yell a bunch of really forced dialogue at each other. But once the catalyst takes place, and the ominous mood sets in, the film builds some eerie suspense--initially concentrating on what we don't see rather than what's there. Is the threat just their imagination? The wolf they accidentally hit? A creepy criminal dwelling in the woods? Or an actual flesh and bones monster? Things eventually get physical and bloody and gruesome. And in case you're wondering, we do end up getting a clear look at the evil force in all its nasty glory, even amidst the film's murky, rain-drenched setting and deep, dark shadows. While there might be a metaphor to dig for, I perceived the story's antagonist in a very straightforward and literal way, as opposed to recent spooky and symbolic gems like The Babadook or Under the Shadow.

Unfortunately, the narrative gets bogged down with melodramatic flashbacks that come off as filler, and the film doesn't reap the emotion and poignancy that it seems to be aiming for. Basically, The Monster isn't going to shatter your world, but it's at least a good VOD choice for a stormy night.

( 7/10 )

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