HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Monster
HTS Overall Score:77
Monster movies are easily one of the most visually frightening and disturbing sub sections of the horror genre. It has served the horror community well with overly graphic stories of terror, and subversive and subtle acts of horror where what is NOT shown on screen over powers what IS shown. “The Monster” is deliciously subtle and confined horror movie from Bryan Bertino. The same man who brought us the horrific home invasion flick, ”The Strangers”, some nine years ago. After “The Strangers” was released Bertino vanished from the directors/writer’s chair until his 2014 flop, “Mockingbird” (which is a surprisingly creepy film besides getting critically panned. Now he’s decided to delve into the monster horror genre with a tight and confined film that is more than happy to delve into the horrors of interpersonal life as much as it’s willing to show monsters eating people up.
Young Kathy (Zoe Kazan, daughter of prolific screenwriter Nicholas Kazan) is an addict and a mother, with an emphasis on the word addict before mother. She has spent her life squandering every opportunity she has with her daughter, Lizzy (Ella Ballentine). Suffering on her own has turned her into an alcoholic who is alone, and desperate to have a relationship with her child, only unable to form a bond when everything she does just pushes Lizzy away. Most of this story is told through the use of flashbacks, with Lizzy being the main focus as we watch Kathy wreck herself with booze, drugs, and destructive relationships. All the while watching this destructive behavior leak and ooze over Lizzy’s soul, slowly killing the young girl.
While the past is terrifying, it is a setup for what is to come. Kathy is taking Lizzy to her father’s house (knowing that Lizzy won’t be coming back, as she’s messed up far too many times) only to have their evening cut short by the pair running into a wild animal out in the middle of the lonely highway. Alone and with a broken-down car, the girls do the smart thing, they call for help. The only thing is that there is something dark and foreboding out there in the night. Something that doesn’t want them to leave. A monster that will haunt and terrorize the two females, leaving them begging for just the slightest sliver of daylight to show itself.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=88970[/img]“The Monster” acts as a twofold story here. On one hand, it’s your basic monster terror flick. We’ve got your typical black beastie outside just salivating to get in and tear the two women apart. In this aspect, the movie succeeds quite nicely. The scale of the movie is small, but the terror level is high, as the werewolf like creature stalks the two women in their car, slowly picking off the help that comes one by one, all the while circling and waiting for the perfect chance to strike. One thing I did find very satisfying was how the monster was very little CGI, and heavy on the practical effects. You could tell from the motion and the way it moved that the beast was actually the old “man in suit” routine, and the old-fashioned way of utilizing prosthetics and the like were very enjoyable.
The flip side of the story is the how Bertino parallels the monster out in the woods with the monster of addiction. It’s not a wild stretch of the imagination to put two and two together and realize that the monster out in the woods is a direct allegory for how Kathy has tortured and destroyed her own family over the years. The interspersing of the flashbacks to moments where she is in full rage mode, or the scene with Lizzy whispering how much she hates her mother do a good job at acting as figurative parallel to the destruction going on outside, and the fear felt from the two girls. There’s nothing that actually comes out and SAYS it, or beats you over the head. But it’s pretty obvious that the monster inside of us is just as important as the monster that we can physically see in this world.
Kazan and Ballentine both do a fantastic job with portraying the tortured women. Kazan already looks the part of someone who has abused her body to the point of near anorexia, so the leap to full blown addict is not that hard to see. Ballentine rises above the usual drivel that dominates the child acting community, giving a heartfelt and very emotional rendition of the abused daughter. There’s a few flaws in the film, as many a horror movies do, and the leaps of logic that they pass over sometimes makes one roll their eyes. But the overall flick is quite well done as both an introspective and creature feature horror flick in both regards.
Rated R for language and some violence/terror
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=88978[/img]Once again, I couldn’t find any information on whether this was a digital shoot or utilizing film, but from what I can see I would definitely guess a digital shoot. The dark film is just bathed in blackness and except for the rather desaturated and golden tinged flashbacks, much of the movie is featured in a dark car or the dark woods. Black levels are paramount here, and for the most part they maintain healthy shadow detail and good strong darkness without too much crush. I did notice banding around light sources and where the creature would stand in close ups, but nothing too egregious or noticeable really. Colors are a bit dull, but there are some primaries that pop in the car (such as Kathy’s pink tinged hair, or the red blood against flesh during the monster attacks). Contrast levels seem to be balanced, and while there is some noise in the darkness, the overall picture quality is quite pleasing.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=88986[/img]Being a confined film, “The Monster” actually has a fairly dynamic audio mix. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track switches from close quarters dialog (filled with heaving breaths and scratching glass) to roaring beasts in the wild with claws and flesh being rent from bone. Surround channels can be a bit light at times, but there is plenty of ambient activity in the forest to give a decent sense of immersion throughout the film. LFE is tight and clean, and adds a nice sense of heft and weight to the monster attacks, as well as a great accompaniment to the intense score. It’s not THE most wildly energetic and intense horror track known to man, but “The Monster” hits all the right notes and que cards to make a solid audio experience for the listener.
• Eyes in the Darkness - Featurette
I commend Bryan Bertoni for his third entry in the horror genre (and his third role as director), and really enjoyed many of the parallels and metaphorical twists along the way. I do agree that the move took a bit too long to get going and suffered a bit in the 2nd act, but all in all it was a pretty interesting creature feature flick with a side of allegory thrown in. Lionsgate did a good job on the Blu-ray with solid audio and video scores, although once again, the extras seem to be the most neglected part of the package. Definitely worth it as a good rental.
Starring: Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine, Aaron Douglas
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Written by: Bryan Bertino
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 24th, 2017
Buy The Monster On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Fun Watch
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