Bryan Bertino returns with a new spookfest this Halloween. The director of THE STRANGERS and MOCKINGBIRD takes a different tactic this time around. Instead of home invasion or found footage frights, Bertino’s third directorial effort is a monster movie.
Appropriately (if blandly) called THE MONSTER, the film stars Zoe Kazan (RUBY SPARKS, OLIVE KITTERIDGE) as a woman who had a child way too young. Still a child herself, Kathy is irresponsible, is quick to anger, and demonstrates all-around bad judgement. Her daughter, Lizzy (Ella Ballentine, THE CAPTIVE, STANDOFF) is caught between two selves: taking care of her mother and being a kid. She wakes her mother and cleans up her beers after she parties all night, but still clutches a singing stuffed puppy doll and sleeps in pillow forts.
Kathy is supposed to bring Lizzy to her father’s house for a temporary visit she suspects will be permanent. After sleeping most of the day (despite Lizzy’s attempts to wake her hungover mother) they get a late start on the road, meaning that it is the middle of the night before they are even halfway to dad’s house.
This being a horror movie, the pair must travel through a dark, lonely stretch of woods. They must get into a car accident. And it must start raining. That is when a monster creeps from the woods, attacking everyone it can. The eponymous monster is huge and black and oily – and done practically. We know nothing of this monster, where it came from or what it wants. It comes out of the woods to attack anything living. It is suggested that the monster doesn’t like the light, but otherwise it seems to act on its base instincts.
Despite the fact that this is Bertino’s first monster movie, it was very important for him to do something “practical and real.” “So many of our fears are based on things that you can touch,” Bertino stated. “So I liked the idea of having something there that the actors could respond to, and that we could film in a way that felt tangible. As much as I enjoy big spectacle movies, very often I feel as if CGI effects make you take a step back and say, ‘That was really cool, but I didn’t think that of those things were actually happening.’ So for us, on this film, if a monster’s diving into a window, I wanted it to feel like that was really there.”
THE MONSTER is not just a monster movie. It’s a coming-of-age film, but not for Lizzy. Kathy, the mother, comes of age in this film, finally learning what it means to be a mother. Of course, with a movie called THE MONSTER, you would expect there to be a monster in it – and you will be rewarded.
THE MONSTER will be releasing to theaters/OnDemand on November 11th from A24.