(7 / 10) – Excellent watch.
The Monster surprised me in several ways. I went into to this movie not expecting a lot but time filler and maybe a decent jump scare here or there, but what I got was movie that delivered on many levels: Drama, suspense, horror, and just about any other thing you can throw in there except romance and the like. The Monster managed to take an utterly unlikable character and redeemed her by the end of the movie, and not in a I’m gonna make up for everything, but the realization that you have a chance to finally do something right. There are so many levels to this movie, and I mean that in a good way. These levels are explored just enough to make the viewer think about them long after the movie ends, and they add perfectly to the theme and feel. Desperation, sadness, loneliness, and bravery.
My greatest congratulations to The Monster for not using CG, but instead opting for a person in a suit/animatronics. I honestly can’t say which it was, probably the former but I’m pretty sure a couple parts were the latter. It made the monster itself that much more tangible, that much more frightening because you felt as if you could actually touch it were you a little closer. I’ve always loved this about non-CG creatures and monsters when they are done well, such as the werewolf in Ginger Snaps, or the first two Terminators which relied heavily on models, and non-CG special effects. Don’t go into this movie expecting a giant budget film, because it isn’t, and I’m actually thankful for that because what we ended up with was something remarkable and not watered down by bloated budgets and even more bloated ambitions *cough Slender Man cough*.
I also enjoyed that by the end of the movie we no longer cared about the usual big questions; where did the monster come from? What exactly was it? Why did it exist? None of that matters except that it does exist, and that’s good enough.
The music in this movie is well done, adds to the tone and feeling without feeling overly intrusive as I almost forgot it was there. The acting from Kathy (Zoe Kazan) and Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) were top notch, and the absolute discord between them felt genuine, and later an important element of where this was heading. I found the directing to be quite well done as well, as the shots were lined up perfectly mostly, the slow suspense driven movements of an unseen monster were perfect, and inspired the sense of dread that one would actually feel were you there.
Of course like all horror/suspense movies it falls into a few tropes, like the arm flying on to the hood of the car from no where. Why did it do that? It makes no sense from an actual animal standpoint. If a flashlight was strong enough to scare it away, or a torch even, then the lights of a vehicle should be too, and this was played upon at one point and then forgotten. Or near the end when it enters the vehicle the lights inside are as bright as a flashlight so why didn’t that scare it? Oversights to drive the plot, but noticeable ones. The terror that Lizzy displayed and seemingly back and forth of her feelings for her mother Kathy feel a little pushed, but once enough backstory comes in, something that is excellently added, it becomes more understandable. Stupid people being stupid for the sake of being stupid in a horror movie, enough said on that.
And then there was the ending.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ending of this movie, but it really was a little heavy handed. Fortunately, once you’ve reached that point you’re so emotionally invested you’re likely not to care about that little detail. If you catch on early that this is Lizzy’s journey, not Kathy’s, then you will enjoy the end that much more.
All in all I would say this movie is a must watch for horror/suspense/drama fans even. The Monster has landed itself somewhere in my top movies with the likes of The Blackcoat’s Daughter, another movie that leaves you with a deep sense of emotion. At any rate it should be given a go.
It is worth noting that while I mentioned the discrepancy with the lights and the monster being scared of them, then not, I do understand what the monster really represents. It is a metaphor?…or symbolism?…I don’t know, I looked this up and I’m still a bit confused on that (please let me know if you know) for Kathy’s alcoholism. This is readily apparent as soon as it is scared away by something so simple as light; the monster she is goes away during the day. It is destructive and dangerous to Lizzy, and frankly jumps on Lizzy’s bear with a ferocity that is only rivaled by Kathy’s earlier in the movie. It is at one point almost hesitant to attack Lizzy, as if something down inside were telling it not to, and then the “monster” emerges to charge her.
The comparisons of Lizzy overcoming the monster, but losing her mother to it, parallel her battle with her mother’s alcoholism perfectly. And though this along with the end is a little heavy handed as I mentioned before, I feel this was done with a great deal of care and just enough subtlety to make it work. While I haven’t read other’s reviews of this movie I feel this might be where part of their problem lies. As I gave this a bit higher rating than the general average.
This movie is very much about the battle between alcoholic mother and her daughter, and who the survivor would be. But that victory came at a high cost.
If you’ve seen this movie let me know what you thought of it in the comments.