Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Monster 2016

The Monster 2016
Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine and Scott Speedman

Rated: R for language and some violence/terror.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: November 11, 2016 Released by: A24 Films

A low-budget horror effort from Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) is hardly well-paced in its attempts to provide thrills and chills using ambiguity and angst before unleashing lurid strokes that ultimately lacks the desired tension. Currently, it's also available in the on-demand format.

Maybe it's because The Monster perhaps with a dual-meaning in it can't make the mother/daughter frayed relationship coalesce with its creature-lurking-in-the-woods.

The writer/director ably has his craft contributors wisely laying out a mood predicated on the self-destructive single mother Kathy (Zoe Kazan, coifed in red streaks) having to leave her unforgiving, precocious tween daughter Lizzy (a confrontational, adamant Ella Ballentine) with her father (Scott Speedman, relegated to a cameo).

Much of the action in the early reels is in a car or in the dark as the long trip (on a stormy night with construction and a detour), thanks to mom's hard partying ways, is much delayed. And, thus a wolfish animal is struck causing minor injuries to the bickering travelers who'll eventually have to lean on one another when they learn that the titular reptilian figure will wreak havoc as a tow-truck and ambulance are presumably well on their way.

During the wait, flashbacks focus on the love/hate relationship of Kathy and Lizzie explaining how the estrangement occurred that caused the latter's less-than-saintly dad to depart. The spare music, vigorous editing, and widescreen lensing offer the kind of eerie aura needed as victims fall prey to inexplicable beast kept in the shadows for a while, anyway.

But, once it rears its ugly (man-in-a-suit) head, The Monster becomes a fettered, chained less solid and stable art form. Still, if some consider it a cousin to the most deft and spryly rendered The Babadook the more impactful psychological realization is how convincing Kazan and Ballentine are throughout the domestic and subsequent visceral mayhem.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Matt Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Monster 2016        C+                     C+ 

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