In the horror genre, sometimes the real monster is humanity, as the Walking Dead TV show is keen to demonstrate. Sometimes, however, the real monster is an actual outsize, razor-toothed monster, waiting out in the darkness of the forest to pounce on any folks luckless enough to wind up in its hunting grounds. The new film from writer-director Bryan Bertino — the man responsible for 2008’s heart-stopper of a home-invasion tale The Strangers — toys with both ideas before ultimately landing on the latter.
Zoe Kazan plays a divorced alcoholic named Kathy who is taking her young and justifiably had-enough-of-mom daughter, Lizzy (Ella Ballentine), to permanently relocate with the kid’s father. While driving at night through a remote, rain-lashed forest, Kazan’s character crashes into a wolf, which both wrecks the pair’s car and raises questions. Did something chase Mr. Wolf into the road? How did it get those deep cuts on its body? And hey, where did that body suddenly disappear to when no one was looking? The answers bode ill for both our heroines and for a car mechanic (Aaron Douglas from Battlestar Galactica) who attempts to help them out.
Like The Strangers, the result is a simple but skillfully told shocker. Bertino makes nerve-shredding use of his 30-miles-from-the-middle-of-nowhere setting, while flashbacks deepen our knowledge of the two protagonists’ tortured relationship. And if The Monster doesn’t reach the nail-gnawing heights of Bertino’s earlier film, the same could be said of pretty much every other horror movie that has been released since. B