A mother and daughter go on a long ride to the father's house. They hit something on the road and crash the car. And so there they are, stuck in their car while a storm is raging outside. And while its just the two of them, the movie is great. Once it introduces a few expendable characters and a boring, unexplained monster, the film becomes boring and predictable.
The Monster is a movie, directed by Bryan Bertino. This is the third movie directed by him, the first one being Mockingbird and The Strangers, movies which I though were...below average. I can easily say that this is by far his best movie, but that's not that great of a compliment.
The plot itself is really basic. Kathy, played by Zoe Kazan, is an alcoholic mother, pretty much the opposite of a good parent, goes on a trip with her daughter Lizzy, played by Ella Ballentine. The trip would take them to Lizzy's father. But, just like in every horror movie, their car breaks down in the middle of an old road. After that we get about 20 minutes of great acting by the two leads and some chilling scenes, which were well directed. For this whole time, the movie takes place mostly in the car, which provides safety for our main characters. But after they get out of the car, the quality of the film goes downhill.
The greatest thing about the movie are definitely the performances. Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine give very raw and emotional performances throughout the whole movie. Zoe Kazan's character, Kathy, is a divorce alcoholic mother, who has failed parenting. It's so bad, that mostly Lizzy, the daughter, does the cleaning, wakes up her mother in the morning and makes the breakfast. Even though there are some chilling moments with the monster, the scariest part of the movie is during the flashbacks, when we see a mother and daughter bickering and cussing at each other with absolute hatred. There is nothing quite as terrifying as seeing two people, who should have a loving relationship, wishing to kill one another. The movie shines here because Zoe and Ella deliver their lines with passion and raw emotion.
Sadly, the movie drags on and everything after the first act is a mess. Though there are still scenes where Zoe and Ella shine with their powerful performances, the plot starts becoming more and more predictable and boring. Every good decision a character in this movie makes is followed by three stupid ones. There are a lot of horror cliches, so overused and annoying, that I just kept rolling my eyes through most of the movie. Of course they'll take the old abandoned road. Ugh, I'm not going to even name all of them because it might take me ages to do so. By the end of the movie you won't be very scared. Actually you might not be scared at all. You'll just be thinking if it is actually possible to have such stupid characters all in one movie. There are of course a few expendable characters that the monster quickly...well, kills. They add nothing to the movie whatsoever. They even ruin it by making the main characters leave the car.
Let me say a few words about the monster. Before getting a good close look at it, I thought that it looked pretty great. The sound effects were nice, making you feel that once you see the thing, you will be terrified before it shreds you to pieces. And I do applaud the use of practical effects instead of CGI. But the problem is that once we do get a closer look, the monster looks terrible. It ruins the immersion you have in the movie, because it looks like a cheap Halloween costume. I burst out laughing at one of the final scenes where the whole body of the monster is shown and it is so painfully obvious that it's a guy in a costume.
The focus of the movie is not on the monster though. It's all about the relationship between mother and daughter. Kinda similar to The Babadook, but that movie was actually good and scary. This, on the other hand...well it does a good job with the mother-daughter relationship. But it is sort of scary only in its first act, while the main characters are still in their car. After that it becomes a tedious mess that never goes anywhere.
The Monster is at its best when it focuses on the drama in the relationship between mother and daughter. The movie is at its worst when it introduces more characters and focuses on the monster, which looks laughable when shown in its complete "glory".