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Bryan Bertino
Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine, Scott Speedman
Writing Credits:
Brian Bertino

A mother and daughter must confront a terrifying monster when they break down on a deserted road.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 1/24/2017

• “Eyes in the Darkness” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Monster [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 17, 2017)

If a filmmaker affixes a title as generic as The Monster to his or her work, the movie needs to be special enough to overcome the blandness of its moniker. Will 2016’s The Monster deliver an experience exciting enough to make me forget its dull name? Read on and see!

Alcoholic single mother Kathy (Zoe Kazan) largely leaves young daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) to fend for herself. This makes the girl hardened and jaded beyond her years, as she finds herself forced to deal with the messes her irresponsible mother creates.

Kathy and Lizzy head out to take the girl to her father’s house because it’s his turn for custody. This trip comes with unforeseen events, as an accident strands them in an unpopulated area and confronted with terror that traps them in their car.

In a cinematic universe where most horror films consist of little more than cheap jolts and telegraphed terror, it becomes tempting to laud efforts that opt for subtlety. Anything that avoids the standard tropes seems fresh and rich by comparison.

Which may leave us with the tendency to overpraise a flick like Monster, one that builds at a slow pace and attempts more dramatic subtext than most in the genre. In particular, the movie indulges in flashbacks that show us the problems involved in the Kathy/Lizzy relationship.

These choices allow the film to shoot for character depth, but Monster doesn’t really succeed. The views of the past offer context that the movie fails to require, and they shove the tale toward metaphor that just doesn’t work.

Honestly, Monster would be more effective if it shed its pretensions and simply tried to be a basic horror flick. I like the fact that the movie starts slowly, especially because it doesn’t telegraph its intentions.

For much of its first act, Monster progresses like an interpersonal drama about mother and daughter. If you watched it cold, you’d have no idea that it would eventually involve a violent creature that attacks many victims, and I think that that “slow burn” suits it.

However, the movie’s attempts at metaphorical relevance let it down as it goes. These stabs don’t fit the rest of the tale and they require certain leaps of logic that don't work. The subtext feels like forced attempts at meaning that drag down the story.

Which seems like a shame, as Monster presents a perfectly decent horror tale otherwise. Nothing about its basic creature-related terror innovates, but the film builds a good sense of tension and comes with reasonable excitement at its core.

Monster also boasts strong performances from its two leads – especially Ballentine, who proves nearly revelatory. She manages the hard edge necessary for the character but also manages to show Lizzy’s little girl side, all while she attempts to deal with unimaginable terror. Ballentine grounds the film and makes it much better than it could have been.

But Monster remains too inconsistent to become truly satisfying. In some ways, I admire the film’s ambition but I think it strives to be something it’s not, and that leaves the end result as a mixed bag. It’s a mostly interesting film but not a great one.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D+

The Monster appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image seemed to replicate the source.

Sharpness looked good most of the time. Some softness hit wider shots and a few of the many low-light scenes. Still, the majority of the flick showed good clarity and accuracy. Jaggies and shimmering failed to distract, and edge haloes remained absent. The movie also lacked any source flaws and was consistently clean.

In terms of colors, Monster went with subdued tones. Parts of the movie featured an orange flavor, but much of it was simply grayish or desaturated. The hues never stood out as memorable, but they weren’t supposed to be impressive, so they were fine for this story’s stripped palette.

Blacks could be a little inky, but not to a problematic degree. Dark tones usually appeared fairly dense, and the many low-light situations offered appropriate clarity. In the end, the presentation seemed more than adequate.

With the low-key storytelling on display, I thought the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack proved to be fine. Much of the material focused on moody atmosphere, so outside of some rain and thunder, the mix didn’t do a lot with the five channels. A few monster-related shots added some involvement, but ambience continued to rule the day.

In addition, audio quality satisfied. Dialogue was natural and distinctive, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects provided good clarity. Those elements seemed accurate and boasted nice vivacity. This became an appropriate mix for the tale at hand.

A featurette called Eyes in the Darkness runs seven minutes, 32 seconds and includes comments from writer/director Bryan Bertino, producers Aaron L. Ginsburg and William Green, and actors Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine, and Aaron Douglas. “Eyes” looks at story/characters, cast and performances, monster effects and locations. A few decent notes emerge, but this mostly exists as a promo piece.

The disc opens with ads for The Witch, Into the Forest, Blair Witch, Green Room and Free Fire. No trailer for Monster appears here.

The basics of The Monster succeed, and strong acting helps carry it. However, the movie wears its pretensions on its sleeve, and those elements create some deficits. The Blu-ray offers generally good picture and audio but it lacks notable supplements. Monster works well enough to merit a look but it doesn’t fire on all cylinders.

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