• Review: The Monster (2016)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Sun Oct 23 14:31:55 2016
    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: Bryan Bertino directs a suspenseful horror film
    about a mother and daughter stranded at night on a
    deserted road. Their car is besieged by what might be a
    wounded wolf or what might be what wounded it. They
    have a very dysfunctional relationship and with
    flashbacks we learn why. This film is an exercise in
    suspense that does not always work, but still has a few
    good scares for the audience. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)
    or 6/10

    There is a popular sequence in a well-known science fiction or
    horror film (let me be a little cagey here and try to avoid a major
    spoiler). It would appear here that writer/director Bryan Bertino
    adapted that sequence into an entire movie by replacing and
    developing the characters and telling their background in
    flashbacks. The basic situation and some of the ways to handle
    scenes seem to have been borrowed from the previous film.

    Kathy (played by Zoe Kazan) and her daughter Lizzy (Ella
    Ballentine) have a relationship that is bad from the ground up.
    Kathy is irresponsible and a substance abuser and estranged from
    Lizzy's father, so Lizzy has previously taken the role of the adult
    of the family. Now Lizzy is fed up and wants to go to her father,
    and while Cathy does not like the idea, she is cooperating. Lizzy
    wants to get there as soon as possible even if it means that Kathy
    has to drive all night.

    They are the only people on a back road when suddenly their car
    hits something big and spins around smashing the driver's door. It
    looks to be a wolf dead in the road, but a few minutes later the
    wolf's body has disappeared. There must be something else on the
    road, probably bigger than the wolf. And you guessed it: as the
    mother and daughter learn to depend on each other the ice between
    them melts. If it had not, the audience would not be so anxious to
    have the two save themselves. At first neither person seemed worth
    the effort to save. But each eventually realizes that the other
    may be the key to her survival

    The film is left with some long scenes of the beleaguered pair
    facing off against something they can never get a good look at.
    Scenes like these put the director on a knife-edge between keeping
    the viewer in suspense and being tedious. Sometimes seeing too much
    nothing in the progress in the story will lose the viewer or it may
    just tighten the suspense. Here it does both. The film sometimes
    works, though some pieces carry on too long.

    Bertino does some decent exercise in atmosphere, e.g. sending the
    car down dark Freudian roads lit only by a pair of headlights. He
    largely introduces the whatsit just a bit at a time. The viewer is
    left to question if he/she really saw what it looked like. Little
    visual details are added slowly. [Incidentally, I saw the poster
    after only after seeing the film and I would have been unhappy had
    I seen them in the other order. The poster is a stupendous
    spoiler. Take that as a warning.]

    I rate THE MONSTER a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. It is
    of note that Zoe Kazan is the granddaughter of the great but
    controversial film director Elia Kazan.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper

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