REVIEW | ‘The Monster’ is not scary

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The Monster seemed to be an over-extended adaptation of the jarring vehicle scene from Jurassic Park.

INDIE darling Zoe Kazan plays Kathy, a very bad mother to her only daughter, Lizzy (Ella Ballentine). Alcoholic and verbally abusive, Kathy loses custody of Lizzy, and the story begins on the day she drives her daughter to live with her father (Scott Speedman). On the way to Lizzy’s father, the car dies and the two get stranded in the woods. At night. During a downpour. And there’s a monster lurking in the shadows, determined to kill them.

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Written and directed by Bryan Bertino (“Strangers,” “Mockingbird”), “The Monster” seems to have been inspired by the car scene in “Jurassic Park” and fleshed it out to a full-length feature. Rain. Stuck inside the car. An animal suddenly disappears. Instead of a goat, it’s a wolf. A limb slamming into the front window. A killer creature ready to pounce.

With a premise so simple and straightforward, a monster out to get a mother and daughter, you will naturally rely on the details. Unfortunately, the story is too thin. And with no explanation why a flesh-eating monster exists in the woods makes it too shallow, like a product of a child’s imagination. Why is there a monster in the woods? Where did he come from? What’s his motive? Also, he suspiciously looks like a dinosaur.

The film lacks any sense of thrill and suspense, as you don’t really know anything about the monster—plus Bertino utilizes flashbacks to Kathy and Lizzy’s dysfunctional relationship at home. This kills the momentum of the horror, prevents build-up, and becomes tiresome and repetitive, that you can’t wait for the monster to eat them and be done with it.

Kazan and Ballentine give effective performances. Kazan gives her role the necessary meanness, immaturity, idiocy, and genuine love for a daughter she is incapable of taking care of. Ballentine, meanwhile, gives her character the complexity of a neglected child. However, there’s nothing really entertaining about watching them bicker endlessly. And their characters are unlikable.

The talents are wasted on a bad script. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense, like the paramedics who decide to explore the woods. Why? Of course the movie wants the paramedics killed by the monster—but why let them explore and search for it? Their job is to immediately take the patient to the hospital.

Overall, “The Monster” is all gore and eerie atmosphere, but lacks imagination. Like a monster story conceived by a grade-schooler and co-written by her divorcee mother to add emotional layers. Yawn.

1 out of 5 stars
In select Philippine cinemas since June 14th, 2017

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