The Monster tells the story of a Kathy and her daughter, Lizzie, as they encounter a creature on a deserted road after their car breaks down.
This movie sounds like the most rehashed plotline out there. A family breaks down in the woods. Something attacks them. They have to get to the main road. Yadda Yadda Yadda. But this movie feels so original and so tragic because it interweaves a simultaneous narrative in flashbacks detailing the strained and sometimes abusive relationships that Kathy has had with her daughter. As tensions and danger rise, Kathy and Lizzie must confront their relationship, discovering how much they need each other.
It’s a basic monster tale, but more in the ways that Moby Dick is monster tale. The monster, as far as I interpreted it, is a symbol for the turbulent relationship between Kathy and Lizzie. As Lizzie’s angry memories of her mother escalate, the attacks by the monsters also intensify. The monster forces Lizzie to reconcile with her mother by realizing that she is stronger than she knows and that her mother truly loves her, regardless of her past actions.
The movie deals with emotional topics like emotional and physical abuse, alcoholism, true love, and sacrifice all within the premise of a traditional creature feature. It offers a new take on a monster movie and tells the story of a sheltered and emotionally traumatized girl’s quest to find bravery and strength within herself while also coming to terms with her complex familial relationships.
As a horror film, it does deliver a constant sense of claustrophobic tension. The performances of both Zoe Kazan (Kathy) and Ella Ballentine (Lizzie) are fantastic, as they are essentially the only people in the film and the entire plot centers on their relationship. Some of the dialogue seems almost too mean, especially in the beginning, but the main scenes on the road and most of the flashbacks are tragic and emotionally heart wrenching. The only other complaint is that a lot of the scares are really cheesy and predictable, but the actual story is great.
The Monster takes an overdone concept and makes it feel original. The addition of an emotional subplot allows the two leads to work off each other and find redemption in their own ways throughout the film. It shows the true extent of love and sacrifice and tragic relationship within families. The concept itself sounds like a lifetime movie that merged into a horror film, but I thought it was well done, well acted, and emotionally poignant.
Amy’s Recommendation: 9/10