Director: Bryan Bertino
Cast: Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine, Aaron Douglas
Release Date: January 24, 2017
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 8/10
Disc Rating: 7/10
Acclaimed horror filmmaker Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) wrote and directed this suspenseful and scary film, in which a divorced mother (Zoe Kazan) and her headstrong daughter must make an emergency late-night road trip to see the girl’s 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.
‘The Monster’ tells the tale of a divorced and somewhat questionable mother and her strong, independent daughter en route to the father’s house. After accidentally hitting an animal, their car suffers issues and leaves the two stranded on an eerily deserted road where they are fortunate enough to successfully place a call for help. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to them the real trouble hasn’t even begun and once the wounded animal and the repairman sent to help both go mysteriously missing, they soon realize that there is a terrifying presence lurking in the woods next to the road and seemingly picking off victims one at a time. Now this mother and daughter will have to find a way to escape their broken down car and either find help or battle the creature if they are to have any hope of surviving the night.
Written and directed by notable filmmaker Bryan Bertino (The Strangers, Mockingbird), he does a fantastic job at the helm of ‘The Monster’ guiding his own script along with a gorgeous and tense style that fits the tone perfectly. The film also works so well as a result of the minimal cast including Zoe Kazan (Fracture), Ella Ballentine (The Captive), Aaron Douglas (TV’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), Scott Speedman (Underworld) and a couple others who each manage to deliver highly capable performances in each of their respective roles and also help to further boost the tension thanks to the believability they manage to achieve in their handling and delivery of the numerous dramatic moments.
‘The Monster’ is a clever, well constructed and creepy dramatic thriller that while not quite perfect, still offers a calm, slow burn monster film that is much more than what initially meets the eye. It also wisely opts for leaving many elements distinctly ambiguous, therefore forcing the viewer to arrive at their own conclusions regarding many aspects within. The basic premise of the mother and daughter broken down on a desolate road allows for nearly the entire runtime to concentrate on the two, and the numerous, calmly unsettling scenes of them trapped on the road and attempting to stay within their vehicle allows for a somewhat claustrophobic tone throughout, even while simultaneously occurring out in the wide open. Written and directed by talented filmmaker Bryan Bertino whose direction is only further complimented by an extremely limited cast that each deliver more than capable performances. ‘The Monster’ isn’t likely to be a film widely appreciated by the mainstream masses, but for the fellow genre fans out there and anyone who appreciates a smart, unsettling and often quite tense dramatic horror film, I would strongly urge you to make a point of checking this one out as soon as you have the opportunity to do so; it’s well worth a watch.
Overall, ‘The Monster’ is a smart, beautiful and surprisingly emotional horror film that offers as much of a dramatic focus as horror and manages to come together into a fairly impressive slow burn film that should have no trouble keeping the attention of genre fans who appreciate the formula. It’s passionately guided by director Bryan Bertino and features a minimal and fairly unknown cast that delivers around each and every turn. There will surely many folks out there that won’t be overly fond of ‘The Monster’, but I would definitely recommend it to the fellow horror fans and anyone who can appreciate a capably assembled and delivered film that is surprisingly as much of a family drama as it is a horror film. It should have no trouble justifying the cost of a rental for anyone understandably hesitant to drop the cash on a blind purchase, and Amazon Prime subscribers will be pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s already available to stream for members.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Monster’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation delivers a sharp, detailed and clean presentation from start to finish that suffers no notable faults of any kind throughout. It holds up impressively even during the numerous darkly lit sequences (of which there are quite a few within the film) and never results in anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected, let alone rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a spectacular high definition video presentation from Lionsgate that’s complimented by a more than sufficient bitrate and should easily please.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack offers a perfect complement to the film and provides a consistently crisp, clean and occasionally fairly aggressive audio presentation throughout. It regularly utilizes all five available channels in order to send pouring rain, trees and other nature elements, along with some creepy auditory effects and more throughout the various speakers, and never causing any dialogue which might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible in the process. Overall, this is a pretty fantastic 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that sounds great and delivers in every way required of it.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Monster’ includes a single extra in the way of a behind the scenes Featurette: ‘Eyes In The Darkness’ (running approximately 8 minutes in length) which includes some behind the scenes footage and interviews/comments with the cast and crew.