- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Monster movies – no matter how old-fashioned they appear – will never EVER go out of style. There will always be a corner of the dark forest where terrifying things lurk about and, perhaps more importantly, there will always be people who want to watch these creatures spring from deep inside that blackness and attack. Writer/director Bryan Bertino’s latest film, The Monster, is proof positive of that.
With a crafty eye for ratcheting up tension, The Monster is an intense survival tale that pits a mother and a daughter against an abysmal creature that is far more terrifying than the lows in their fractured relationship. This may be a low-budget horror film, but it will long be remembered thanks to some key performances and a metaphorical purpose that dominates ANY terror seen on the screen.
The Monster is a creatively engaging film. Know that first. The horror film is best understood in the context of the relationship it establishes between a very stubborn young girl and her alcoholic mother. As a result of its earnest character building, the movie operates on many levels. It draws in its audience with an exceptional use of mounting flashbacks, pitting them against the unfortunate situation of being inconvenienced with a blown tire along the road.
And then the unthinkable happens. Damn the woods that are just a few feet from either side of the country road they take. The evil that it contains is very, very hungry. With clever cinematography twanging against a bundle of nerves that won’t stop buzzing, The Monster confines itself to one setting for the main thrust of the terror at hand as it works up its slow burn of an impact.
Kathy (Zoe Kazan) just wants to get Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) to her father, Roy (Scott Speedman). It is the final trip she’ll make with her daughter. Having divorced years ago, Kathy – a (barely) functioning alcoholic – is facing some cold, harsh truths about the condition her condition is in. There have been many broken promises and a whole hell of a lot of verbal abuse along the way. Her daughter, as a result, pretty much despises her. Yet, it is this trip that will be the most important one they’ll ever take together.
And, with what awaits them in the woods, it just might be their last journey anywhere.
Bertino’s skill at directing The Monster results in a movie that is smart, effective, and good for far more than a scare or two. This is relationship-building at its finest. Of course, THE monster at the center of The Monster is unlike ANY we’ve seen before. It would have to be. Performed by Chris Webb, the monter’s slinky movements are astoundingly creepy. The practical effects are damn impeccable, but – as Alice once said, “curiouser and curiouser” – this is also a monster of their own making. And surviving both will be the biggest bitch of their existence.
I’ve not felt this way about a modern-day horror film since The Babadook. If you saw that one, you’ll be prepared for the soul-ravaging exploits of A24’s latest release. The Monster easily claws its way through to the top of the list of this year’s horror films. Don’t miss it.
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence/terror.
Runtime: 91 mins
Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino
Cast: Zoe Kazan, Scott Speedman, Aaron Douglas
Tagline: From Bryan Bertino, director of The Stangers.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Hello, we've been in an accident."
Theatrical Distributor: A24
Release Date: November 11, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: January 24, 2017.
Synopsis: A mother and daughter must confront a terrifying monster when they break down on a deserted road.
Home Video Distributor: Lionsgate Films
Available on Blu-ray - January 27, 2017
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD-25); UV digital copy; Digital copy
Region Encoding: Region A
Lionsgate brings The Monster onto blu-ray with a solid MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer. There is literally NOTHING to quibble about with this release. Colors are saturated and black levels – which are important to this film – are solid, thick, and defined with shadows. On other words, the atmosphere of this slow burn horror film is preserved well and makes for a superb experience at home. The sound is a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is both immersive and intense.
Housed in a slipcover, there is but one supplemental item on the disc. It's an all too brief EPK covering a quick look at the work behind the scenes on the movie. Disappointing, really.
- Eyes in the Darkness (8 min)