“My Monster” delivers some genuine scares in a metaphor for facing one’s fears and anxieties head-on.
This recap of Just Beyond season 1, episode 4, “My Monster”, contains spoilers.
Just Beyond is supposedly a horror anthology, a family-friendly take on the usual October fare, but it hasn’t really felt like one until “My Monster”. Here, though, a more traditional horror vibe is felt immediately — young girls, creepy houses, creaky floorboards, and men in deeply unpleasant masks looming out of rain-lashed dark nights. Of course, there’s still something underneath all this, the interiority of a girl struggling to deal with her parent’s divorce, but this is the first episode thus far that actually feels like it’s trying to be scary.
Just Beyond season 1, episode 4 recap
The girl is Olivia (Megan Stott), an outwardly upbeat and positive cheerleader (and captain of the debate team!) who is hiding crippling anxiety over the separation of her parents, which is only being exacerbated by the family’s move back to her mother’s creepy childhood home. She and Graham (Elisha Henig) debate the house’s potential haunted status and theorize whether it’s ghosts or poltergeists or something less easily defined haunting the halls and staircases.
Before long Olivia and Graham are both trying to solve the mystery of a tall man in a mask together, really emulating the usual structure of these things but with everyone’s ages dialed down. The villain’s mask evokes The Strangers for me; simple enough, but creepy in that simplicity. Sometimes the dude comes accompanied with music, and sometimes chases Olivia, though sometimes there’s no music and he just watches her. But she sees him at school, and on the ground while she’s flying through the air during cheerleading practice. This all coincides with Olivia’s decision on whether or not to ride a particularly dangerous rollercoaster, because it’s a metaphor, see?
Predictably, Olivia’s mother has to work late, leaving Olivia in the care of the kindly Mrs. Lipton (Lynn Wanlass), who reveals that, as a child, her mother also thought the house was haunted. She, too, heard music whenever the ghoul was nearby. Olivia confronts her mother about this before she leaves, and she explains how it only ever showed up when she was worried about something. It’s a manifestation of anxiety. She still sees the man in the mask even now, sometimes, but they have an understanding; the point is teaching Olivia that it’s okay to feel her feelings, to face her fears and problems, rather than bundling everything up and pretending it’s all okay.
What Olivia realizes is that she’s in control. She can banish her anxiety. She can remove its mask and look it in the face; confront it directly. It’s a nice message, and the fusion of that message with a more traditional haunted house horror theme works pretty well.
You can stream Just Beyond season 1, episode 4, “My Monster”, exclusively on Disney+.