The Movie Waffler New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - THE MONSTER | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - THE MONSTER

the monster film review
An estranged mother and daughter are menaced by a monster on a dark road at night.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Bryan Bertino

Starring: Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine, Scott Speedman

the monster film dvd


Following his hit 2008 debut The Strangers and his little seen 2014 found footage thriller Mockingbird, writer/director Bryan Bertino remains in the horror genre for The Monster, now receiving an overdue UK DVD release almost two years after it played in US cinemas. Like The Strangers, Bertino's latest sees two estranged family members - in this case a mother and daughter - forced to put their differences aside when confronted with a terrifying force.

The film's title can be taken both literally and metaphorically. Taken literally it refers to the film's antagonist, a ferocious, over-sized creature that falls somewhere between the giant wild boar of Russell Mulcahy's Ozploitation staple Razorback and the xenomorphs of the Alien franchise.


the monster film review

Metaphorically, the monster in question is Kathy (Zoe Kazan), an alcoholic who lost the battle with her addiction long ago and, now realising it's the right and only thing to do, is driving her long-suffering 10-year-old daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) to start a new life with her stable ex-husband. In the film's opening scene we watch as Lizzy cleans up the mess of empty bottles left behind in the living room by Kathy and her loser boyfriend (Scott Speedman) as her mother sleeps off a hangover. Throughout the narrative, Bertino gives us flashbacks that illustrate the hell Kathy has put her child through with her refusal to give up the demon drink.

Kathy's over-sleeping leads to herself and Lizzy driving down a dark, deserted road late at night and crashing to a halt when a wolf runs out of the woods and into their path. After calling for an ambulance and tow truck, the mother and daughter wait it out, but it soon becomes apparent the wolf was fleeing from a threat, and Kathy and Lizzy are forced to put their differences aside to make it through the night.


the monster film review

The Strangers began as a story of a couple attempting to reconcile their discord, but that aspect was ultimately dropped as a generic home invasion plotline came to the fore. With The Monster, it's almost the opposite, as the family drama aspect of Bertino's film often threatens to overwhelm the horror. It's far more successful as a story of a terrible mother admitting she simply doesn't have the power to change but can do one last positive thing for her child than it is as a monster movie, and the flashbacks to Lizzy's psychological and physical abuse are considerably more disturbing than anything involving the literal monster.

It's as a horror movie that The Monster falls flat. Bertino fails to exploit the potential of his premise, rarely creating much suspense with the placement of his camera and how his leads and their animal stalker interact. The movie's most effective shot is a carbon copy of The Strangers' most iconic image, as the film's antagonist appears in the background, unbeknownst to its foregrounded protagonist. But such moments are all too rare, and when the action amps up in the final reel the screen is so dark and the editing so sloppy that it's difficult to make out what exactly it is you're watching play out.


the monster film review

Ultimately, what saves The Monster from being filed in the drawer marked 'second rate Shyamalan knockoffs' is the central performance of young actress Bellantine, who was actually 15 at time of filming but is thoroughly convincing as a vulnerable 10-year-old. It's Bellantine's sympathetic and often heart-breaking performance that keeps us engaged, offering us a youthful final girl we can root for as she battles monsters both literal and metaphorical.

Icon Film Distribution presents The Monster on DVD & Digital 8th October.



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