The Monster (2016)
Critic Consensus: The Monster uses its effectively simple setup and a powerful lead performance from Zoe Kazan to deliver a traditional yet subtly subversive -- and thoroughly entertaining -- horror story.
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Critic Reviews for The Monster
The faint mist, the eerie silence, the saturated blacks - so much of this film is reminiscent of the classic monster movies of the '30s and '40s.
A fully realized depiction of elemental fear and desperation, The Monster's modest scale should attract discerning genre fans while establishing a firm basis for potential cult status.
A film like Bryan Bertino's The Monster, featuring a fantastic and fearless performance from Zoe Kazan, feels oddly timely.
Mr. Bertino, who also wrote the undercooked script, sets the scene effectively, using his leads to give the story a sense of normalcy that he dismantles trick by genre trick.
Audience Reviews for The Monster
Excellent horror film. I love the level of suspense that this film creates, and the cinematography is awesome.
Monster movies are like zombie movies, which I talked about the other day in my review of The Rezort, there's either a movie that finds a new and clever angle to use its monster or the movie plays into every monster movie cliche usually associated with the subgenre. The Host is one of those movies that combines both, it uses a monster to tell character-driven story with some social commentary, but it also plays like a regular monster flick. It can be enjoyed as popcorn entertainment and, if you look deeper, it can also be enjoyed as something more than that. And, for the past 11 years since its release, The Host has been the benchmark for what a truly excellent monster movie should be. So where does this movie match up with The Host? It doesn't really even come close, but in some ways it's better than The Host. And those ways are very simple, I do believe that the movie has a stronger narrative between its lead characters than those in The Host. There's an inextricable relationship between Kathy and Lizzy. And it almost has to be that way considering that they are mother and daughter, respectively. The film, while obviously focusing on the monster, explores at length the very troubled relationship between Kathy and Lizzy. This is revealed through flashbacks that reveal Kathy's trouble with alcoholism and how Lizzy gets the brunt of Kathy's anger whenever she's drunk or wants to go out to get some alcohol. Because of that, obviously, the movie is a little more serious than one would reasonably expect, but I believe it works because it gives you some perspective on how Kathy and Lizzy got to the point they are in their relationship at the start of the movie. I do believe there's a mutual hatred between each other. At least from Lizzy's part and, having seen her past, it's not like I would hold it against her. She's not a pissy kid for no reason whatsoever, her mother has pretty much put her through hell when she had no right to, so I get her hatred of her mother. But, even with that, there's still a part of Lizzy that holds on to the hope that her mother will rehabilitate herself and will get back on the right path. This gives the emotional heft. It can get a bit heavy-handed in its approach, but it mostly works due to Zoe Kazan's and Ella Ballentine's performances. I'm not surprised by Zoe's performance, because she's great. Ella's the one who surprised me the most. I've seen two movies she was in before, but I simply do not remember her in either of them. Must have been minor roles. But, honestly, she steals the show in this movie. She is excellent. The problem with the film and its narrative is that it gets very weepy. Because of that, while the film has strong characters that you care about, it all feels very one-dimensional as you only get to see the darker side of the characters and their personalities. One-dimensional characters can still be strong. The movie needed to show the good with the bad, but they only focused on the bad. I'm not saying it had to be perfectly balanced between good and bad. But showing us a few snippets of happiness would have made drama that more effective and not a complete downer. But that's just me. No complains about Zoe or Ella though, they were both excellent. As far as the monster part of the film goes, it's actually one of the better monster movies I've seen in a while. Not saying it's a great movie, but I felt that the horror in the film was fairly intense all things considered. The fact that it takes place in the middle of one road, surrounded by a forest, gives it a bit of a claustrophobic feeling, even with a forest around, simply because there's no way to know where the monster is gonna come from. If you walk down the roads you're fucked, since you're just heading in one direction, leaving you, really, as something of a sitting duck. If you go to the forest then you're also lost and unaware of where you're actually going, not to mention the fact that the monster could be pretty much anywhere. And the movie does get a lot of mileage with that. It doesn't do anything that you haven't seen before in a monster movie, but what it does it does really well. With that said, as a whole, I thought this was a very good movie. Is it better than some of the best monster movies out there? No, not at all. But it offers a really good movie, with strong characters, though this is a narrative that only looks at one aspect of the mother-daughter relationship, and some really strong horror. Not to mention the excellent performances from the leading ladies. That's make this an easy recommendation, really. It's not perfect, but it's damn good.
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