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No Such Thing As Monsters, Stuart Stanton, Angel Giuffria (Movie Review)

No Such Thing As Monsters, Stuart Stanton, Angel Giuffria (Movie Review)
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PLOT: A couple camping in the Australian wilderness runs afoul of a strange family that takes a horrific approach to procreation.

REVIEW: Director Stuart Stanton's NO SUCH THING AS MONSTERS (watch it HERE) has been described as an Australian equivalent to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and while it skimps on the cannibalism, it does feature a very twisted family that does some awful things to people. Like the families in CHAINSAW and HILLS had Leatherface and Pluto, this family also has a member who stands out, a unique character who proves to be particularly memorable. In this case, the standout family member is Amy (Georgia Crisfield Smith), who has a skin condition she keeps hidden under layers of clothing and a fabric mask, and is so shy she speaks through a hand puppet called Sweetheart. Surprisingly, viewers may actually come to care about Amy, despite the company she keeps, because she seems to be the one person in the group who has any compassion.

The people who need compassion are American girl Mary (Angel Giuffria) and her Australian boyfriend David (Matthew Clarke). Mary has made the journey over to Australia to be with David, and he has put forth the idea that they should go on a camping trip to a spot in the wilderness that his family used to go to years earlier. Unfortunately, Mary and David only have this spot to themselves for one night before a family of four siblings shows up to camp right beside them. At first, this bunch - Michaela Celeste as Nelly, Rebecca Fortuna as Becca, Jacob Fyfe as Elmer, and Amy - seem harmless, although they are very odd and Becca is clearly putting in some effort to seduce David. Mary would probably be quite disappointed to know just how amenable he is. But soon their "nice people" facade crumbles and the family takes Mary and David captive at their secluded home.

No Such Thing As Monsters Stuart Stanton Matthew Clarke Angel Giuffria

It's not exactly clear why the family wants to keep Mary around, but Nelly and Becca have a very specific purpose for keeping David around. It doesn't matter whether he would have let Becca seduce him or not, because now he's going to be forced to impregnate these women, who tie him to a bed for months to keep him as a sex slave - even long after they succeed in their goal. Meanwhile, Mary is chained up in a camper trailer outside, with only Amy keeping her company.

While David goes through a harrowing ordeal, most of his suffering is done off screen. The film focuses on Mary, and Giuffria turns in a strong, highly emotional performance. Mary isn't a great heroine, she makes some frustratingly dumb moves at certain points, but the fact that she's so frustrating does show that Stanton and Giuffria were successful in making us care for the character and root for her to get out of this living nightmare. It's also impressive and admirable that Stanton and co-writer Karen Elgar didn't feel the need to give Mary any sort of elaborate back story to explain why she has one arm. Giuffria was born without a left arm, and the fact that Mary has one arm is simply part of the character, it's not a defining trait and she doesn't have a traumatic story to tell about what happened to her left arm. Mary is extremely claustrophobic, she even has panic attacks from being inside the camper, but that issue is tossed aside once she's forced to live in the camper for months, and it has nothing to do with something happening to her arm while she was in a tight space.

No Such Thing As Monsters Stuart Stanton Georgia Crisfield Smith

Giuffria and Smith make their characters sympathetic, while Celeste, Fortuna, and Fyfe do the exact opposite. Nelly, Becca, and Elmer are despicable, disgusting people. Their comeuppance (if there is to be any) can't come soon enough. Rohana Hayes shows up late in the game as another villainous figure, and even though she has less screen time than her cohorts she also manages to make her character someone worth hating.

NO SUCH THING AS MONSTERS is very weird, packed with terrible people, and has the heroine act in questionable ways from time to time, but it remains interesting and emotionally engaging every step of the way through its 90 minute running time.

The film is now available on DVD (buy a copy HERE) and VOD (watch it HERE).
 

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