Acclaimed horror filmmaker Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) directs this suspenseful and scary new film, in which a divorced mother (Zoe Kazan) and her headstrong daughter must make an emergency late night road trip to see the girls father. As they drive through deserted country roads on a stormy night, they suddenly have a startling collision that leaves them shaken but not seriously hurt. Their car, however, is dead, and as they try in vain to get help, they come to realize they are not alone on these desolate backroads – a terrifying evil is lurking in the surrounding woods, intent on never letting them leave
Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) Is a young girl with a lot on her plate. She and her mother, Kathy (Zoe Kazan) have become trapped in a car on a winding country road during a rainstorm in the middle of the night by a monster. Worst car ride ever.
Bryan Bertino’s new film The Monster, begins by introducing us to Lizzy. She is a young girl that is exposed to her mother’s alcoholism and violent boyfriends on a regular basis. Clearly a destructive relationship, the Macguffin is set when Lizzy is being driven by her mom to stay permanently with her father. Along the way they take a route on a two lane highway through the woods where they hit some sort of animal. They dial 911 and wait in the car for help to arrive. As the wait drags on, they begin to spot a skulking shape in the woods around them and just beyond the reach of the headlights casting out ahead of the car.
For this to be a horror film things need to happen, and boy do they. The movie plays out as a metaphor for a deteriorating relationship and the savage elements that can tear us from each other, particularly in the parent/child arena. Between the moments of bickering and full on arguments inside the car, along with trips outside the car, we see flashbacks of definitive moments between our two protagonists. One particularly vicious scene has Ballentine’s Lizzy in a nasty shouting match with her mom. This moment captures a cruel realism of just how toxic their relationship is. Remarkable work on the part of both Ballentine and Kazan.
Bryan Bertino crafts a clever script that doesn’t cheat. He also remembers to work in the existence of mobile phones as an actual plot device instead of playing on the tired “No Signal” gag. Any normal person would simply stay in the car and wait for help. But Bertino paints himself into a corner and finds clever ways to pull the two from the car in the name of self preservation.
The Monster is a creature feature of the highest order. Mounting suspense, impressive performances, and a shrewd sense of pacing and structure make The Monster something far more than the typical horror pic. Bite into this tense thriller and thank us later.