Monstrous review – an atmospheric horror held together by Christina Ricci

March 14, 2022
Louie Fecou 0
Film, Film Reviews
4.5

Summary

Christina Ricci holds everything together in this atmospheric horror due for a summer 2022 release.

4.5

Summary

Christina Ricci holds everything together in this atmospheric horror due for a summer 2022 release.

This review of Monstrous is spoiler-free. 


The Glasgow Film Theatre was the venue for Frightfest 2022, a 3-day event celebrating horror and thrillers in cinema. The Saturday night special screening was Monstrous, a new horror thriller starring Christina Ricci, and directed by Chris Sivertson, followed by a Q&A with the director himself.

This is not a film backed by any of the mainstream film distributors and looks much more like an indie movie than anything you might see from Blumhouse, however, it must be said that the presence of Ricci lends everything a more mainstream feel. The story follows Ricci as Laura, on the run with her 7-year-old son from an abusive ex-partner, taking refuge in a secluded new house by the lake, in 1950s America.

The setting of Monstrous allows the director plenty of opportunities to puncture the scenes with everything you would expect from a film in this time. There are some lovely set designs, costumes, and the outside locations are carefully selected not to break the illusion. There is also a suitable soundtrack that features popular songs from the era, pop-filled bubbly tunes are selected, but the garishness of such songs as “Mr. Sandman” often lend themselves to something more sinister happening in shot. The Q&A led to the director confirming the deliberate usage of certain songs, as that era of music often focussed on dreams, a motif used throughout the screenplay.

Things get creepy when son Cody starts to see a demon-like creature emerging from the lake, and horrific sightings start to invade every aspect of their new home. It’s a classic set up that would have been at home in any Blumhouse production, but there is more focus here on the central characters than the monster on the screen.

Director Sivertson spends a lot of time showing us the struggle of the mum and son, in hiding from another life and trying desperately to start a new one. The supernatural aspect of the film, while suitably scary, is topped by the ringing of the phone, often left unanswered by Laura, who knows her ex may be waiting on the other end of the line.

We are sympathetic with the characters, not being accepted in their new lives, unaided by the owners of their new rented home, alienated by school friends and work colleagues, and haunted by not one, but two monsters, and Ricci is convincing and credible in the role. And it’s a difficult role to play. We see Laura trying to hold her life together, but underneath we are always aware that her stoic persona could collapse under the weight of her situation at any minute.

Santino Barnard as young Cody also does great, with just the right amount of deliberate displacement in his performance, to let us know of the trauma he is going through. It seems that Santino was a last-minute casting too, after Covid meant the first actor for the young role was unable to take part.

Pacing wise, there is a slump towards the end of the second act, that perhaps a stronger edit may have helped alleviate, however a satisfying, and surprising third act ties everything together and pays off everything that has been built up previously.

Horror thriller fans will love Monstrous, but this is by no means a jump scare gorefest that genre fans might expect. This is an honest and haunting tale, filled with sadness and desperation, and wrapped up in the tropes of a monster movie. Intelligent and ultimately thought-provoking, Monstrous is a low budget indie success that I urge you all to go see when it is officially release this Summer.

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