The Monster is one of those horror movies that released very quietly. Unfortunately, this means that it suffered the fate of unfairly slipping under the radar.
Kathy is the alcoholic, smoking, and drug addicted mother of the young but mentally mature Lizzy. It becomes apparent early on that their relationship as mother and daughter has become extremely strained over the years. Throughout the movie there are a couple of flashbacks that show some of Kathy’s darker moments as well as her fast descent into the ugly depths of addiction. These moments are very effective as they show a number of difficult scenarios that most adults would struggle with, let alone a girl as young as Lizzy.
Lizzy decides it would be best if she goes and lives with her father. Sadly, Kathy continues to relapse without any hopes for a positive end. Even now, Kathy fails to wake up early to drive Lizzy. They are forced to leave at night during heavy rain. As they drive through deserted country roads on a stormy night, they suddenly have a startling collision. this leaves them shaken but not seriously hurt. Their car, however, is dead. They try in vain to get help until they come to realize they are not alone on this desolate back roads. You see, terrifying evil is lurking in the surrounding woods, intent on never letting them leave…
The Monster took me by complete surprise in that I didn’t expect to care about the characters as much as I ended up doing. This wouldn’t have been achieved if it wasn’t for the simply exceptional performances from Zoe Kazan (Kathy) & Ella Ballantine (Lizzy). Horror aspects aside, the dramatic moments which focus on their relationship as mother and daughter are highly engrossing. The flashback scenes which show some of Kathy’s lowest moments are excellent and ooze raw emotion.
The horror aspect of the movie involving the titular “Monster” is pretty good as well. At times it has an almost “Cujo” like feel to it. As in, two people being stuck in a vehicle at the mercy of a relentless beast. There are plenty of tense moments as they struggle to think of ways to survive. Unfortunately, things seem to always be going from bad to worse.
The monster itself is a fearsome looking brute indeed, using practical effects paid off big time.
The ending is undoubtedly the weakest aspect of the film. It leaves some unanswered questions and some of the decisions the characters make are downright stupid. I’ve read others accuse this film of being boring and while it is slow I couldn’t disagree more. I care more about a film building strong characters that I care about then almost anything else. I always prefer the quieter, more character driven episodes of The Walking Dead but that’s just me. The plot is probably as basic and unimaginative as a plot can be in a horror film but it is executed well.
The Monster may just be a film about a razor toothed creature that will seemingly never give up. However, it could represent the horror of addiction and how inescapable that can become, you decide. Give this film a chance; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.