Horror. Worldview. Faith.

The Monster – Review

The Monster – Review

Jan 31, 2017

reviewed by Scott
directed by Bryan Bertino, 2016

The Monster is a 2016 creature feature written and directed by Bryan Bertino, starring Zoe Kazan as Kathy and Ella Ballentine as Lizzy.

Kathy is the alcoholic single mother of Lizzie, a girl who is about ten years old. Kathy looks so young that she could not have been too much older than that when she had Lizzie. As is often the case in such scenarios, Lizzie is like the real parent in the family. We are introduced to them with scenes of Lizzie cleaning up the house trashed from her mother’s partying. Lizzie has to get her mom out of bed so they can make a trip after packing for the two of them. Though in some ways, she is the caregiver, she is also emotionally stunted by their domestic trauma and clings throughout to a stuffed bear that sings nursery rhymes. The opening sequences are effective and prepare us for what is best about this movie.

After the first act, the troubled relationship between Kathy and Lizzie is further related in flashbacks. The mother/daughter tension is the heart of this film. In fact, I want to see the movie of them without the creature. But we are not so lucky. The bulk of the action takes place while they are on their way to take Lizzie to her dad’s place, perhaps for good when they hit a wolf and the car is disabled. In the woods. At night. During a storm. The rest of the picture is them being stalked by a snarling thing and their fight to survive. Rescue almost comes a couple of times but, in the end, the women must try to save themselves.

I had hoped we were in for a complex multi-layered personal drama which happened to coincide with a monstrous encounter that typified the relationship between the main characters. The good news is that is we do get glimpses of such a story. But the bad news is that so many other things are executed poorly. The creature plot is predictable and boring. The music is noticeably underwhelming. For a film entitled The Monster, the actual titular beast was fairly unscary. The image in the movie poster is more chilling than its – at times – laughable appearance in the film. Initially, I was reminded of the introduction of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. A rainy night with two hapless victims trapped in their car being terrorized by a razor-fanged uber-lizard. But instead of a realistic dinosaur, we get a man in a rubber suit. 1950s Japan is calling. They want their Godzilla costume back.

The high points, on the other hand, are the performances. Both actresses are clearly talented but Zoe Kazan was pretty brilliant, especially in the flashback scenes. The most suspenseful scene was her trying to talk herself out of taking a drink. And the most shocking scene was how she treats her daughter when her good-for-nothing boyfriend storms out of the house. The most beautiful scene, and heart-wrenching, was the flashback at the end. As I said, this is the movie I would rather have seen. High fives to Bryan Bertino for showing that addiction is truly monstrous. Too bad about the guy in the rubber suit though.

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