Film: The Monster
Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino
Starring: Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine and Aaron Douglas
This film begins with a young girl doing chores around the house. She is Ella Ballentine. She finally hears an alarm going off and she goes into her mother’s room. Her mother is Zoe Kazan. She gets her to wake up, but she tells her go do something. Kazan then falls back asleep. We learn that Kazan is no longer with the father of Ballentine. She is supposed to be going to see him and her mother is delaying that.
Ballentine seems to be struggling with being forced to grow up, while also trying to cling to her childhood. Her mother isn’t helping it. Ballentine has a stuffed animal that plays a song and this bothers her mother. We do see that Kazan feels bad about some of these things that she has done. Kazan also reveals that she Ballentine won’t be coming back and gives her a watch that belonged to her grandmother.
It starts to rain the two are on a desolate stretch of highway. Kazan then loses control of the car and spins around. She ends up coming to a stop, but hitting a wolf in the process. When they wake up, Kazan is bloody and her wrist hurts. Ballentine calls for help and they’re told an ambulance and tow truck are on the way.
Kazan cannot get out of her door, but Ballentine’s still works. It is almost like Kazan’s was bashed in, but they didn’t strike anything that would cause it. They get out and check on the wolf they hit. Kazan notices wounds that are not consistent with being hit by their car. She also finds a large tooth in it that doesn’t belong. They get back into the car to wait.
The tow truck then shows up and its driver is Aaron Douglas. He takes their things and puts it in his truck. He also goes about getting their car ready to take it to where they’re going. He informs them that the ambulance has been delayed due to an accident on the main route. The two notice that the wolf is gone when he arrives. Kazan thinks the wolf must not have been dead and went off into the woods to die. Kazan wants Ballentine to call her father to warn him about what happened. Her phone is in Douglas’ truck though.
Kazan has her get out to get the phone. Douglas tells her that she can get into his truck for it. The problem is the door is locked. He tells her he will be out from under the car in a minute. Ballentine then finds the wolf in just into the woods. It looks to have been eaten. We then see something behind her that disappears. She goes back to the car.
While she is, Douglas is attacked by something. The two girls try to call out to him, but get no response. They get out and realize that he is gone. They get back into the car as they are now stalked by whatever is in the woods.
Will the ambulance ever arrive? Can they survive until it does? What is in the woods?
I was turned on to this film from podcasts that I listen to. I believe they had seen this film at some festivals so I was interested to see what it was all about. I have to say that this film does do some good things. I enjoy the dynamic between Kazan and Ballentine. Kazan is clearly too young to be an effective mother, so a lot of what she does isn’t great. Ballentine loves her, but has grown to resent her as well. Ballentine has been forced to grow up much quicker than she should have as her mother is struggling with immaturity still. It is interesting to see this paralleled with their current situation where they are stuck. I really enjoy the setting here. They are on a desolate road, in between woods on both sides. There is no way they can walk to safety and I think that is something that helps with the tension of the film. I also enjoy that what happens to the ambulance helps to explain something earlier as well. This film ends up turning into a coming of age film for Ballentine which I did enjoy seeing played out. I thought the ending was good as well.
The acting for this film was really solid. Kazan is pretty nice to look at and we see how bad she is at being not only an adult, but a mother. I think that as this ordeal plays out though, we do see her evolving which I liked. Ballentine is the real star here though. She has a tough job at trying to be older than she is while clinging to her childhood. I felt bad for her, but seeing her grow during the situation was very enjoyable as well. The rest of the cast was good in support. I do want to give props to Chris Webb, who was the monster. I thought he did pretty good as the creature.
Next I will cover the effects, which I thought were good. I believe there was some CGI with the monster, but it was well done. Everything else seemed to be practical and I thought they looked really good. The creature effects were solid. The blood and gore looked real. I thought it was a strong point for the film. I did have some issues with the editing though. The film really starts out as a drama. It doesn’t really start to build tension for the film until they are stranded. There is a bit in that Ballentine and Kazan are at ends with each other, but I did find myself slightly bored in the first act and a little bit during the third act as well. The score of the film really didn’t stand out to me, but it also didn’t hurt the film.
Now with that said, I still think that is a pretty solid film. The story is interesting as we have the mother/daughter dynamic where the mother is dealing with immaturity and too young to be an effective mother. On the other side you have a young girl who is forced to leave her childhood behind to be an adult too early. I loved the setting of the film as it helps to build tension. I thought the two leads were really good and the rest of the cast rounded it out well. The effects of the film looked to be practical and I thought they were well done. The editing of the film did have some issues in my opinion as I found myself bored at times. The score also doesn’t hurt or help the film. I would say that this is an above average monster film. If this sounds good, I would recommend giving it a viewing. It has some depth to it that I thoroughly enjoyed.
My Rating: 7 out of 10