Review by Adam Donato
Monstrous is directed by Chris Sivertson, whose biggest project to date is the Lindsey Lohan horror flick I Know Who Killed Me. His latest entry stars Christina Ricci as Laura, a single mother fleeing from her abusive ex-husband to raise her son on her own. Despite her best efforts to make their new life work, her son Cody played by Santino Barnard is having social and emotional problems. On top of that, their new home seems to be under attack as Cody insists there is a monster preying upon him. Does this small-time horror picture have the right stuff to stand out this summer?
Ricci won the Jury Award for Best Actress at the Fantaspoa International Fantastic Film Festival this year and it was well deserved. She won’t be nominated for an Oscar or anything, but she carries this movie on her shoulders. Her character is so likable and sympathetic. The situation she is in is less than desirable and she has very little support. Laura deals with so much grief and her journey to making things work is admirable. Horror works best when the audience cares about the subject in question. Her performance is not quite in the Toni Collette stratosphere, but Ricci proves she still has what it takes to lead her own movie.
Barnard plays a child struggling to fit in and accept his new living situation. The character is only a second grader so it goes without saying that he’s an annoying child. As far as annoying children in horror movies go, his performance is not obnoxious enough to stand out and there’s moments where his acting works. Nobody else in the movie has a substantial enough role to discuss besides Colleen Camp who plays the wife of the man renting the house out to Laura. Her character is successfully frustrating as she needlessly goes out of her way to continuously make Laura’s life harder.
The big complaint from people who saw this movie at FrightFest is that the story is a lesser version of The Babadook. This is a valid concern as they share characters, plot points, genre, and themes. Monstrous is certainly a worse version, but that’s not saying much as The Babadook is hands down one of the best horror movies of the 2010s. It runs at a crisp 89 minutes with pacing that makes the movie fly by. The scares aren’t impressive at all, but the practical effects used at times make them feel like they have weight to it. In reality, this is a drama masquerading as a horror movie and it’s all the better for it.
The horror movie genre is alive and well with this latest entry. It’s less than original concept is held up by a dynamite performance from Ricci. A horror movie with solid scares, a main character audiences actually care about, and themes that hit home? That already puts this film above the litany of passable horror flicks made these days. If one likes The Babadook, be sure to check out Monstrous.
Monstrous hits VOD on May 13.