Posted October 6, 2018 by Chris Hick in Film Reviews

The Monster (2016) DVD Review

Just as science-fiction films tell us more about the time they were made rather than the time they are meant to be set, so horror films tend not to be about the horror or monster in the films and more about the relationship going on between the protagonists. This can clearly be seen as the case with recently released horror film, The Monster (2016). At the heart of this story is the relationship between 10-year-old Lizzie (Ella Ballentine) and her wayward young mother, Kathy (played by Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of legendary director Elia Kazan).

Via a lengthy introduction we are made aware that Lizzie is the primary carer in this relationship as she gets out of bed, makes herself breakfast and cleans up surrounded by the detritus of empty beer bottles and full ash trays created by her mother the night before. Meanwhile, Mom is crashed out on the bed. We learn early on that her mother is damaged by her past, the source of which is not really revealed other than she is an alcoholic. Through a series of flashbacks in the first half of the film we learn that this is a dysfunctional relationship with rows ending with plenty of “fuck yous” and “I hate you”. Kathy is about to take Lizzie to her father’s, as it is his turn to look after her. On the long journey through the night rain there is an uneasy silence between the pair when suddenly the car has a blow-out and hits a wolf standing in the middle of the road. With the car broken down and a storm rattling around them, they call the emergency services but it is some time before they arrive.

In the meantime they sense another presence in the dark woods off the road and the carcass of the wolf is dragged away by something unseen. Their fears are realised when the breakdown vehicle arrives and the mechanic is dragged off by a big aggressive creature. Naturally, what happens as the film nears its predictable end is trust emerging between mother and daughter as well as Kathy’s opportunity for atonement. Of course the monster, when it finally surfaces is violent, dark and malevolent. This of course stands as a metaphor for the monster within the mother and how its emergence can only then allow for the atonement of Kathy to her daughter. That might sound cheesy or oversimplified, but is the easiest way to explain this film. But it is also the performance by Ballentine who was 14-years-old at the time the film was made. Her performance demonstrates an actress of great emotional strength.

The film is simply realised and was made for less than $3 million. It was written and directed by John Brewer, this being only his third film. However, his first film, The Strangers (2008) is an effective home invasion and suspenseful horror and also wrote the script to the recent sequel, The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018). He is proving himself to be an intelligent director of horror films and hopefully, if his current credits are anything to go by, will have an interesting career.

Chris Hick

Chris Hick