The Monster Review
While I was fortunate enough to catch this film on its DirecTV exclusive, I didn't want it to taint the trip to the Telluride Horror Show, so I let it sit while we enjoyed the amazing horror festival that is THS. Again, a big shout-out to all that are and were involved in that show...It's a one-of-a-kind experience. But back to The Monster...
The film follows an alcoholic mother and her virtually estranged daughter as they travel on a vehicular venture late at night so the mother can essentially concede her daughter to her father. Midway through their voyage in the middle of the night on a back country road (go figure), the mother and daughter crash and become prey to a monstrous creature lurking in the dark.
This film, directed by Bryan Bertino (The Strangers), lacks the atmosphere of Strangers, but rather emphasizes the emotional undertones of the mother/daughter relationship in harsh realities amidst the "dark fantasy" tale. Knowing Bertino directed going in, you can catch the nuance of his style throughout, from the solemn character studies to the effective scare tactics. Because I am among the crowd that enjoyed The Strangers, I found Bertino's fingerprint on this film to be a well-missed return.
The film is much more direct than Strangers in its character study. Rather than leave the subtleties of the broken relationship vague, the history of the mother and daughter is devastatingly spoon fed to you like a fed-up parent shoving the plane through clenched teeth in all-too-real flashbacks. It is brutally despairing, almost as brutal as the paralleled creature that assails them in the present.
The creature movements, construction, and seamless use of CGI/practical effects were head and shoulders above the design itself. While reminding me of the aesthetic of creatures from films such as Animal or Feast, this Monster put Animal to shame while being predictably tame to Feast. The animalistic-like movements and behavior reminiscent of a mother bear defending her cubs/territory gave the creature a corporeal, visceral state that made it feel based in reality. It's a commendable leap from Bertino's other works primarily in the slasher genre.
The process of the storytelling drives both halves along perfectly, like a bipedal organism in full stride keeping balance for the other and never breaking momentum. The monster keeps tension high while the flashbacks keep you invested in the characters as they develop in the present. Both provide answers to the perspectives transpiring before you, and the parallels successfully flow right to when the credits roll.
The film goes beyond symbolism to deliver its point. It also refuses to give you any rest from the emotional and fearful toll this film takes on its viewer. You are exhausted and depressed from the trudging ride. But I simply can't conclude that as a bad thing. Sure, I don't want to be thrown into a pit of sadness every time I'm done watching a movie, but if a film is able to illicit that type of a response effectively, I'd sooner commend it than condemn it.
Horror Qualifier: 9/10
Horror Quality: 8/10
Film Quality: 7/10