This Bryan Bertino written and directed thriller is a perfect example to horror aficionados in the film industry that you don’t need creepy dolls or ghosts and an endless amount of jump scares to create a proper suspenseful horror movie. It also provides the perfect example of balancing a sophisticated and deep story, without detracting from the tension being built.
Bertino has proven his horror-making skills in previous films such as The Strangers and Mockingbird, but this may be his most accomplished work yet and an incredible showcase of his immense talent and potential. The Monster focuses on the story of a struggling alcoholic mother Kathy (Zoe Kazan) and her 10-year old, fiercely strong-willed daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) who get trapped on a lonely evening journey after believing their car has stuck a wolf and end up with a monster hunting them down.
Needless to say, there are a lot of other suspenseful twists and turns thrown into the mix, while the story also jumps to scenes from the past, which unravels their tumultuous and troubled relationship. The film has you working through the intensity of their relationship while simultaneously battling for survival on the road in what becomes a film that never lets up in either its emotional intensity or its fearful suspense.
The film doesn’t initially seem like it will play out this way as it offers up a gentle start to the film that builds you up to the events without thrusting you into the horror, but if you’re willing to work through its sluggish start, you will be greatly rewarded for your efforts. Much of what makes The Monster work is the fantastic chemistry between Kazan and Ballentine. They both bring a strong intensity and relatability to the film and are wholly believable in their roles. Which is a good thing, because outside of a few minor characters and the terrifying creature that hunts them, they pretty much are on-screen for the whole movie.
However, as barebones and simple as it might sound, that doesn’t mean there is not a whole lot going on. Bertino introduces characters and suspense at all the right moments, while timeously reflecting on their deeper past at the right crescendos in their predicament. The use of space and screen time is well planned as even though 90% of the movie takes place on one short stretch of road, you never feel too confined. It’s also to its credit that the film can introduce a bizarre concept of monsters living around us without feeling like it’s stepping beyond the boundaries of normality into the supernatural.
Bryan Bertino also brilliantly builds tension in the film by actually keeping much of the horror off-screen. It’s only in the film’s final act that you get a proper look at the monster attacking them and get met with anything that can be defined as high-octane. The night time setting and rain helps to play its part as light is used cleverly to shine on significant moments while keeping you feeling just as lost as its characters in not knowing what is going on. The ending is probably the weakest part of the film and although it provides a suitable emotional climax to the film, the tension lifts as the film veers towards predictable territory. It’s a minor flaw though for what is otherwise a superbly thought-out film.
The Monster may not be filled without scares for those wanting a non-stop on-screen horror. It will certainly keep most at the edge of their seats though and also entertain you with its heartfelt story if you’re willing to pry your hands from your eyes for a while. The Monster is a superb example of what horror films should be: clever, emotional and eerily suspenseful.
Last Updated: June 27, 2017