December 1, 2016

VOD Review: The Monster (2016)

"Wow. Didn't see that one coming at all."
Writer/Director Bryan Bertino burst onto the Horror scene eight years ago with the excellent Home Invasion flick, The Strangers (review HERE), and it took him 6 years to give us his sophomore effort, Mockingbird (review HERE), which was truly horrid.

Two years after that debacle, we're pleased to say that he's back on the right track with his third effort, The Monster.

The thing about The Monster though is that while it's a great creature feature, its true horror is steeped in the drama between its two main characters, which was both unexpected and powerful stuff.
After putting up with her mother's drinking and drug-fueled partying for most of her young life, sweet little Lizzy has decided that she needs to go visit her dad, in a permanent way. Mom Kathy knows that her little girl is making a break for it and will most likely not come back, and it's kinda killing her, but what can she do? She dun goofed, and it's time to let her go.

The two of them head off on a road trip to daddy's house, but find themselves stranded on a desolate stretch of road in the dark and rainy night after nearly hitting a wolf... which was about to become the meal of a hungry monster that lives in the nearby woods... which they are most likely going to become now.

Trapped in the car, Kathy has to find a way to get she her baby girl to safety, and avoid becoming dinner (or light snack, not sure how hungry the thing is) for The Monster. And that's all we're saying.

A solid monster movie and a surprising effective family drama, The Monster really had an effect on us. I didn't expect Bryan Bertino to throw as much weight behind his characters as he did with the mother and daughter in this one, but he did, and that made the whole thing operate on a vastly different level from most other creature features.

The thing about this movie is that it had depth. Kathy was a flawed human being whose demons basically destroyed her life, and made her into a pretty horrible parent. She loved her kid, but her addictions and life choices not only ruined the relationship between she and her daughter, but left the little girl pretty damaged. When the two of them end up in a situation that basically sees them at the mercy of a savage monster, Kathy realizes that as bad of a mother as she's been, she'd give anything to keep her daughter safe from harm.

The movie has a heavy emotional current that runs throughout that makes the Horror elements feel even more dire. The emotional beats in The Monster really, really worked for me.

Zoe Kazan, who I'd only thought of as kind of an Indie darling up until his point, blew me away with her heartbreaking performance as a wreck of a mother who losing her young daughter and can do nothing about it in this one. In the span of 92 minutes, she went from "Oh yeah, I know her" to "Jesus, this girl has chops." And let us say that her young costar, Ella Ballentine, was every bit as phenomenal, and maybe even more so given that she's a kid and doesn't have as much acting experience as her on-screen mom does. But the talent... well that beats experience every time.

WTF was with the her honking the horn? I mean, sure you wanna warn the dude who's about to be eaten by a massive monster, but you know that the noise is going to draw it to you and your kid, right? And that stupid, noisy stuffed animal that conveniently sounded off at exactly the worst time...

Plot devices, gah!

Horror movies are not supposed to make me sad. What the hell, man?

There's a little bit of gore in this one, but there were more metaphorical tears streaming down our faces than there was bloodshed on-screen.

Not that kind of flick, even though mom was a pilled-up hooker.

Bryan Bertino is still a good filmmaker. Also, a mother's love for her child is a fierce fucking thing.

The Monster is a great monster movie that boasts two great performances from its leading ladies; and it's also a somber, melancholy, morose movie, which bummed us the hell out. If you can deal with that kind of emotional baggage, then give this one a rent asap. It's well worth your time.


The Monster is available now on VOD, and hits Blu-ray & DVD in January.

Zoe Kazan is so frigging cute it hurts our eyes to look at her.


  1. Watched this one a few weeks ago, and I thought it was fantastic.
    BTW, I thought Mockingbird was well done, I know it didn't do well with everybody(I have a sweet spot of FF stuff).
    I thought they did a fantastic job of mixing an 80's style monster movie, with very real characters. Some of the plot of forced, but you can say that to almost every horror movie. There is always someone doing something stupid in these movies.

    When you can find unknowns with this much talent, it really has to be a great experience as a filmmaker.

  2. I was looking forward to watch this since I saw the trailer a few months ago because of Zoe Kazan, thought would be interesting to see her in a different kind of genre, I kind of always picture her in horror she has the right facial expressions for it. That been said, I was a bit disappointed whit this movie, mi first and major problem whit it is that Zoe it’s the mom of this kid.. I just couldn’t buy that. When I saw the trailer a the hole time I was thinking they were some kind of sisters or something, Zoe is way too young or look way too young to have a daughter that old.. (I know it happens. But still it just ruined everything for me.) Then been more simplistic that “monster” was awfully made, it just looks weird and I didn’t find anything creepy or scary in it.
    But I don’t know why at the end I got the impression that the movie wasn’t about the monster as a literal thing it let me thinking that all those flashbacks from the mother been an alcoholic were references of the real monster they were try to get rid of or scape from. The way things ended kind of let me thinking that they were actually hurt at the first accident and that it was all product of the kid imagination been passed out. And if that personal theory isn’t just a little bit true then this movie sucked for me. A mean it isn’t terrible, I was just expecting more from it.

    1. Some good points, I agree with you - it just didn't work for me either.