Coming to theaters and VOD this Friday, May 13th, is an all new horror film from writer Carol Chrest (The Prophet’s Game) and director Chris Sivertson (I Know Who Killed Me, All Cheerleaders Die), Monstrous. The film follows a mother fleeing to a new, remote town with her 7-year-old son. At first, the pair think this move is a fresh start away from their troubled past. Yet they soon discover a dark secret threatens their new home, and even their very lives.
Chrest and Sivertson manage to make Monstrous a combination of horror and emotional drama. The main plot running through it is of a mother doing whatever she can to protect her son and give him a good life. By throwing in the threat of something frightening and supernatural, it not only makes this mother’s journey that much more difficult, but it also heightens the tension throughout the film.
Unfortunately, the film does leave a bit to be desired. The dramatic and emotional aspects of the film make Monstrous feel more like a film you would find on Lifetime or the Hallmark channel. There are definitely horror audiences that will appreciate this, but it didn’t work for me. Monstrous is also quite blatant in how it telegraphs the various twists and turns strewn throughout the plot. Many of these surprises keen-eyed audience members will be able to decipher early on in the film, which ultimately lessens the impact when these things are revealed in the climax of Monstrous.
Luckily, Monstrous includes horror fan-favorite actress Christina Ricci (The Addams Family, Sleepy Hollow). Ricci stars as doting mother, Laura. This woman is doing everything in her power to provide a good life for her son. Yet this also means lying to him, as well as herself, about the strange things happening in their new home. Ricci is really the heart and soul of Monstrous and her ability to portray the perfect, doting, 1950’s mother is delightful. Santino Barnard (8-Bit Christmas, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels) is also wonderful as Laura’s son, Cody. Barnard for the most part plays Cody as just a regular kid trying to adjust to his new life. But there are times when Cody almost comes across as sinister and it’s in these moments Barnard really shines. Ricci and Barnard also act together incredibly well, making the audience believe they are mother and son.
To create the 1950’s feel of the film, as well as some frightening imagery, the Monstrous crew created fantastic visuals. Everything from the clothes to the cars were meticulously selected to transport audiences to the 1950’s. Then there is the entity infiltrating Laura’s new home. For the most part, this thing is only shapes, shadows, and strange lights. Sometimes it is even shown as what seems to be a CGI puddle of water moving through the house. Yet when we finally see the entity fully formed, it appears to be practically done. Despite only getting quick glimpses of the full creature, it definitely leaves an impression.
Monstrous is a haunting tale of a mother’s love, but it feels more like a Lifetime movie than a dramatic horror film. Chrest and Sivertson clearly know how to craft a compelling story, and it’s one that many viewers are sure to enjoy. The overly dramatic themes and predictability of the plot simply didn’t work for me. Luckily, Ricci’s performance carries the film and the dedication to creating great sets, wardrobe, and practical effects make it more enjoyable. While overall I found the film to be lacking, Monstrous is sure to find its audience.
OVERALL REVIEW: 5/10