A bummer of a road trip.

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The Monster focuses on a strained relationship between Elizabeth (Ella Ballentine) and her mother Kathy (Zoe Kazan). The two are going on a road trip where it seems that Elizabeth will choose to stay permanently with her father.

The acting in this movie is simply phenomenal. The turbulent relationship between these two is both captivating and gut wrenching. The film does an amazing job allowing us as the viewer to take in these images without an overbearing message being put forth. Kathy is a bad mom, but it is due to chemical dependency and not an inherent wickedness. She is not excused in her behavior, but she is understood. We get a shockingly honest look at an incredibly abusive relationship.
The brief set up of the two characters allow us to understand their actions and dialogue as the mystery of the film begins. Due to Kathy sleeping in, the two are severely late to their rendezvous. Travelling at night in a rainstorm they hit a wolf and get into an accident. Now they are forced to wait for help as it is discovered that something else had attacked the wolf.

The problem with reviewing this type of movie is that I don’t want to say much about the plot. Going in blind is probably the best way to appreciate it. So, I won’t be saying much else about the plot.

Each scene looks fantastic. We are mostly in dark, crammed, and wet environments, yet each shot looks great. The pacing ramps the tension up in a fantastic slow burn. The characters help propel the story, which is actually kind of unique given the current horror trends. It has been a while since I have seen a movie with a similar structure.

The movie does take a little too long to get to the expected conclusion. Trying to avoid as many spoilers as possible, I can appreciate that some folks might dislike the tropes that appear in the latter portion of the film. Substance abuse being a plot point, but then vanishing later is something that is happening too often.

Despite a refreshing first half we do get a bit more of a clichéd second half. Even though there are clichés present the film is still effective in its storytelling (things are tropes for a reason).

Another plus to the film is that the effects are all practical. The monster might not look as great as one might expect with all the CGI wizardry now, but fans of old school special effects will be pleased. This is a film worth seeing, and even though it has its flaws I think most people will enjoy it. 7.5/10

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