I’m going to try and make this a quick review. It’s going to be difficult because this movies deserves so much more time than I can afford to take a the moment. The cast of The Monster amazing. Some of the best performances you will see in a horror movie. The storytelling is so well done. The story itself has beed done before. An accident on a road trip, the car breaks down on a deserted road and then there’s a monster, creature, bad guys, pick your poison. The story’s been done before. What makes this different is the story telling. I expected a creature feature when I started watching. I got so much more than that.
The acting is what stands out the most so I will start there. Zoe Kazan is so amazing and so real in the movie. Most of all, she is completely believable. She plays a way too young mother struggling with bad relationships and alcohol. There wasn’t a moment in the film when I didn’t completely believe her. Then there’s young woman who plays her daughter. Played with equal brilliance by Ella Ballentine. The same can be said about her performance. A young pee-teen girl who loves her mother so much but has been forced to become the parent in the relationship. Ella Ballentine already has some credits to her name and I have no doubt she will become a household name over the next few years.
Now before I continue with all the love I have for The Monster, I just want to critique a few things that bothered me. There’s a couple of things that bothered me. First up. After the crash/car breakdown, mom let’s the daughter out of the car on a rainy night to go talk the tow truck who is working on their car. Not only does she let her do this. It was mom’s idea. She tells her daughter to go do it. Not a good idea. It’s a horror movie. Tow truck driver just happens to show up? Just not a good idea. I’m sure the writer would give the excuse that mom is dependent on the daughter. That mom doesn’t even recognize the level of her dependency or some other psychological excuse. Though that may in fact be the case, it didn’t play that way to me. It just played out as mom is an idiot. And, she’s not an idiot. Like most addicts, she’s self absorbed. A person that can’t get past her own struggles to see all that she actually has right in front her. Mom loves her daughter and I just don’t think in this situation she would have daughter do this as casually as she would ask her to grab her another beer from the fridge.
Second issue, I can’t get into too much detail about because I don’t want to spoil it. So bare with me here as I try to explain, while being a vague as possible about the actual circumstances. At one point, one of the characters, gives up. Thinks there’s no way out of the situation. This just after discovering a useful tool for protection, a tool that gives them hope for survivial. Their survival is just a few hours away. All they have to do is wait it out. It won’t be easy but they now have some protection, they can survive this. It’s so obvious they can survive this situation. But no, instead, a ridiculous plan is hatched. It’s supposed to be a moment of realization and clarity for a character, I get that. Again, it doesn’t play that way. It plays as if the character is an idiot.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way. Let me tell you all about the writing and directing and that makes The Monster one of the best creature features you are likely to see for a while. The writing. I know, I just shit on a few things the writer did in this story. But, that was it. The rest of the story had so much depth. I truly mean that. This isn’t one of those Syfi originals. This is a well made movie with rich, fully developed characters.
The story goes from present day to flashbacks. We get to see the relationship develop between mother and daughter. The things that led them to where they are emotionally. It was such a pleasant surprise. You just don’t expect that kind of depth in a movie like this. It made the movie that much more interesting and entertaining.
Then there’s direction. Well thought out camera angles. The suspense so is so well down. I don’t know how much of it is direction or the cinematography? So just in case, let me say this, Julie Kirkwood was the cinematographer on this film. Brilliant!
My favorite thing about this film is the practical effects. If you’ve read any of my reviews or rants you know that I think CGI is overrated. It has it’s place. But, a good creature feature doesn’t rely on CGI it’s monsters are real. The Monster delivers a real monster that is terrifying! What’s great about the design is the believability. It could be a monster but it could also be some kind of deformed or mutilated creature, like a bear. It makes you wonder, “What is it?!” and that is exactly what a good creature feature does. Practical effects when done right add a sense of realism you just don’t always get with CGI. Sure, if you have a Jurassic World budget but even they still use practical effects.
In conclusion, this is a must see. Great acting, strong characters, great special effects and directions all wrapped up in a story that brings you in and let’s you care about the people you see on the screen. Just a good solid film. I think even those that don’t normally enjoy “horror” movies would enjoy this for the mother daughter story alone. The story between the mother and daughter is very real and can be hard to watch at times but it is written and played with such brutal honesty that it forces you to care about these these two.
Side note, I failed. Not a quick review. My bad.
Watch the Trailer