As an avid horror fan, I’m almost ashamed that I somehow missed this title. Released in October of 2016, The Monster is a bit hard to put into neat categories. Part horror, part Sci-Fi and mostly hard hitting drama – horror is changing and evolving beyond indie shorts!
A complete story.
“They are hiding and watching, just wait and see”
The movie opens with beautiful music and composed shots and immediately introduces the tumultuous and complicated relationship between Mother and Daughter; Kathy and Lizzy.
It’s clear that Lizzy and her Mother have switched roles. She’s the caretaker and nurturer – with a level of melancholy that only a girl who’s accepted the loss of her childhood can muster.
Kathy struggles with alcohol addiction and chronically disappointing her daughter; that much is clear immediately. Lizzy is a girl with a plan and today is the day that that they she starts a new life, one with her Father – who, has to be a better alternative.
During their road trip, Kathy and Izzy reflect on the struggles that led them to this point. I appreciated the silences, the glances between them that they found and held when a hug or physical touch would have been more comforting. Lizzy who was already being forced to grow up and for Kathy who needed a wake up call.
Enter the conflict: a car accident.
The beauty of this movie for me, before any elements of horror or Sci-Fi have been introduced is that it really cemented how complex the relationship between Mother and Daughter was and allowed you to really hurt and love with them while they were already getting ready to say goodbye. I was so heartbroken by how their relationship was deteriorating, I almost forgot it wasn’t purely a drama.
The situation quickly escalates from “we hit a wolf” to “oh shit” in very little time. The slow burn is worth it and you barely realize because of the amazing character development both in real time and in flashbacks. I almost thought that this movie was going to go the way of The Babadook and other recent drama horror offerings that ultimately left it up to the viewer to decide whether or not the Monster was real – oh, it was real but it wasn’t the only Monster that needed to be dealt with.
One of the scenes I enjoyed the most was Lizzy calling her Father to tell him about it while her Mother looked on nervously. Knowing that there would be nothing but judgement and accusations on the other end of the line and listening to her daughter trying to defend her.
You see Kathy reflect again on her darkest moment, when she knew she should have walked away from her addiction but couldn’t.
Help arrives but is it going to be enough. Can they fight, can they win?
The music was beautiful, haunting and perfect in each scene. The acting was fitting for the themes of the movie and I think Zoe Kazan (Kathy) did an amazing job in her role is alcoholic Mother but Ella Ballintine (Lizzy) carried the movie and I’m sure this won’t be the last time we see her.
Writer and Director Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) really captured the emotional discomfort of growing pains within a family unit while exposing them to the reality that the world at large is far more frightening than their own personal demons.
This movie isn’t for the slasher fan, its for the horror/sci-fi fan that’s okay with learning about their characters in a tight space and really exploring the layers of emotion that sometimes we miss in this genre.
“My mom says there’s no such things as Monsters but she’s wrong. They’re out there, waiting for you. Watching. In the Dark. Sometimes we see them, sometimes we don’t. I know that now. I’m not afraid anymore.”
Check out the trailer: