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The Monster (2016)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Bryan Bertino

Starring:
Zoe Kazan/Kathy
Ella Ballentine
Scott Speedman/Roy
6 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
A mother/daughter duo (Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine) get stranded on a deserted road on a rainy night. The worse news is, there's a monster roaming about and it wants them as Scooby Snacks.
THE LOWDOWN

The only reason that I got wind of THE MONSTER (Now on DirecTV, in Theaters and On Demand on November 11 via A24) was because it was directed by Bryan Bertino who impressed the shit out of me in terms of generating unease, an unapologetic bleak tone and a creative visual style with THE STRANGERS. The latter was a critical and financial hit (9 million dollars budget and it raked in like 60 Mil) and I have to admit that the lad totally fell off my radar after that, which is odd. Usually after a hit film, you ride that wave and pump more out ASAP. For whatever reason, no dice for Bryan. Upon some research, I found out that 6 years after THE STRANGERS he directed the found footage horror flick MOCKINGBIRD (2014) and now he’s back again with THE MONSTER, which I found out about totally by accident. So how was it? Lets dive in!

THE MONSTER was a beautiful looking film, armed with sleek cinematography, gorgeous and intelligent framing (in the sense that it often echoed the dramatic conflict at hand) and atmospheric imagery galore. Flashbacks aside, the bulk of the film was set on a dirt road during a rainy night and Bertino ideally captured that vibe in a polished manner. And for those who dug Bertino’s downbeat jive in THE STRANGERS, you won’t be disappointed here. This had to be one of the most depressing “monster movies” that I have ever seen. Ya see, amidst the chaos we had a damaged relationship between a recovering pill-popping, heavy drinking mother and her psychologically wounded little girl. The flashbacks between the two were heart wrenching to say the least, like really f*cking hard to watch (all about that "I hate you" bit), and although the present day scenes were a tad easier to digest, they were also draped in a cover of sadness and hopelessness.

The fact that there was a motherf*cking monster ruthlessly eating motherherf*ckers left, right and center didn’t help the downbeat tone either but more on “it” later. The dark heart of the story was definitely the mom and daughter duo brilliantly played by the lovely Zoe Kazan and young Ella Ballentine. With bags under their eyes and carrying obvious emotional scars; both actresses gave raw, intense and moving showcases. I so bought it! And it hurt. Watch out for Bellentine! She should become a child actress to be reckoned with. So much talent! She blew me away here. In fact, I actually found the drama more compelling and hard to watch than the horror. Go figure! Topple on top of that a handful of efficient creature attack scenes, random tension and a morose piano/violin score (i.e sad as f*ck) by Tomandnady that made this downer go even lower and you get a decent if not freaking heartbreaking monster film.

So what’s holding me back over here! Well for starters I was half and half on the execution of the monster itself. Although I respected that they went practical with it (i.e. guy in a suit), often enough that’s what the thing looked like, some dude jumping around in a suit. The monster constantly went from being convincing, to not, which hurt me buying into the chain of events 100%. I would have shot around it more, them long close-ups on it didn't help sell me that's for sure. The occasional dumb move to serve the plot (I hear it helps to roll down a car window when screaming at somebody – they’ll hear ya better) and the inconsistencies in terms of the monster rules (monster is fearful of flashlight beam but not the headlights of a car…) also blemished the experience for me.

All in all THE MONSTER was a hard watch but not for the reasons you would think. It’s not the horror that did me in, it was the gut wrenching drama. Need a horror film to lift your spirits? THIS AIN’T IT! Get the Whiskey!

GORE
We get some nasty bites, blood and a ripped off arm.
T & A
Nothing arousing.
BOTTOM LINE
THE MONSTER had a gripping initial premise, two brilliant actresses in tough roles giving it their all (Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine so owned it); a polished/moody look and hard hitting drama that almost ruined my day. What it was missing was less dumb moves to serve the plot, a sticking to its own rules and a monster that was convincing 100% of the time instead of half the time. On that, this was still a well paced and enjoyable in a “blow your brains out afterwards with a glass of Whiskey in hand” watch. Your move haus!
BULL'S EYE
Scott Speedman who was a lead in THE STRANGERS has a small role here. More like a cameo.

The film was at first called There Are Monsters.

Elisabeth Moss was originally set to play Kathy.
Strikeback
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