Sometimes only crisis can bring us together, the thought of death scaring us into each other’s arms. That idea is one of the central themes of THE MONSTER, the new film from Bryan Bertino (THE STRANGERS).
Kathy (Zoe Kazan) is a horrible mother. Her alcohol intake and choice of men have all but destroyed her relationship with her daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine). After a rough night brought on by Lizzy’s decision to move in with her dad, they head out on the road. During this dark and stormy night, it isn’t long before trouble enters the picture. Kathy hits a wolf and tears up the side of the car and must wait for a tow.
While waiting, they look at the wolf’s body and find that it has a huge tooth embedded in it. This is enough to prompt them to wait in the car for the tow truck. The tow truck soon arrives but they notice the wolf’s body is gone. It isn’t much longer before they learn what happened to the wolf. Something is out there, hungry and it isn’t human.
THE MONSTER is a tense film. The anger between mother and daughter is palatable and sometimes hard to watch. You feel for Lizzy because Kathy refuses to take control of any situation until the end. She would rather have Lizzy go out in the cold rain than handle things herself. This being said, Lizzy doesn’t give up on her mother and their initial confrontation with the monster changes things for the both of them. Arguably for the better.
Like THE STRANGERS, this is an intimate film. A small cast but a big situation. The film is tense because we know the characters so intensely. Solid performances by Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine may rattle some but they are the heart of this creature feature and these performances are award worthy.
Yes THE MONSTER is a horror film in the purest sense but it is also about two people who have lost their way and find it back on a dark road filled with the unknown.