Ginger Nuts of Horror
When Matt Shaw first announced that he was going to make a film based on his popular novel Monster co-authored with Michael Bray there was a little bit of apprehension on my part. Matt is the master of brutal, shocking and at times hilariously funny offensive extreme horror, but would that undeniable skill transfer from the book to the screen. When you have watched so many horror films from directors and production companies with far more experience and financial backing behind them than Matt, that are utter shite, you can be forgiven for thinking that this could well end up being a nice try son, but let's not do this again.
How wrong could this reviewer have been? The sense of relief after watching just the first ten minutes of Monster was enough to alleviate all worries about this film.
Regarding the plot Monster is a relatively simple film, a married couple have an emotionally and physically retarded son, who likes to break his playthings, so the husband and wife lure back unsuspecting victims for their son to play with. And when one woman is lured back to their abode for their son's birthday party, all hell breaks loose in this fight for survival.
Let's be clear here this film is no walk in the park. This is an extreme horror film, where the horror comes solely from the horrors inflicted by human beings, there is no supernatural element to water down the horrific and nasty things that happen on the screen. Monster is unyielding and unapologetic at the violence and psychological terror that it inflicts on the characters, and for that, it makes the film better for it. There is no redemption character arc, no lessons to be learned, no last minute change of heart. Monster starts out brutally and it doesn't stop.
One of the biggest surprise is just how good Monster actually looks. I have no knowledge about the different camera and film types, but one of the most significant flaws in so many horror films is that they look cheap. Monster doesn't look cheap; it looks like a film with a far bigger budget, and the use of real-life locations, a real house, and the use of some excellent lighting setups gives this film the sense of reality that was needed to support the rest of the production.
The cinematography is first class; each shot is framed exquisitely allowing the viewer to focus on the performances of the actors. This is probably best shown in the somewhat off-putting birthday cake scene, the tight frame and marvellous sound design make this scene, which in reality is one of the tamer scenes in the film, wholly and utterly stomach churning. This was the point where I almost had to take a bathroom break such was the urge to vomit at what I had just witnessed.
The opening scene is another prime example of some of the clever techniques that they use to induce a sense of unease and uncomfortableness. The insertion of subliminal messages that match the monologue has an effect like being punched in the stomach before anything has happened on screen the viewer is already unsettled and wary about what is come next. It's an effect that is used to similarly significant effect at the end of the film.
The nightmarish quality of Monster is helped by a "dreamlike" scene towards the end of the film where Richard played by Rod Glenn defends his actions to an audience of his peers. It's a powerful segment that manages to avoid the usual pitfalls of the dreaded dream sequence.
Monster has a small cast, which works in its favour The story focuses on four main characters, although the performances from Tony Cook and Danielle Harold in the opening scene are excellent. It's Clair Buckley turn as Elizabeth, the cheeky and sassy friend of Emily that gets my votes as the best performance from a supporting actor. Her relatively short time on screen is an utter joy to watch, would like to have seen more of her, but at least she might now finally get to eat that chocolate bar she so desperately wanted to eat.
And let's not forget a rather special performance from horror author Mark Cassell. Mark's turn as one of the prisoners of the house brings a nice light comic relief to the proceedings. The delusional, out if mental state that he ends up in will bring a wry smile to your face.
Mike Butler isn't given very much to do regarding acting range, his character is more of an animalistic avatar than a fully fleshed out one, yet despite this, he brings a great sense of pathos to the role. Yes, he is a brutal monolithic monster, who knows no boundaries regarding right and wrong, but we are left in no doubt that he is a product of his environment and the nasty and vile upbringing he has been subjected to by his father. It's a compelling performance, and when he is on the screen, you are left wondering with apprehension as to when and if all hell is going to break loose.
It's been a while since we have seen Tracy Shaw on our screens and after her performance as downtrodden but nasty Mary, one can only hope that it won't be long before she is back on our screens. Mary is perhaps the most complex character in the film. You can't beat about the bush she is as evil as they come, facilitating her husband in maintaining the never-ending supply of 'toys" for her son. She is entirely complicit in the events, she'd go down quicker than a lead balloon in any court of law, but thanks to the wonderfully faceted portrayal of mary, you end up feeling sorry for her. She is as much trapped in this nightmare as her son. There is no way out for her, and she knows it, and even though she appears to relish the killings and sense of power that they give her, thanks to Shaws powerful and multifaceted performance you see past that this to the shattered and broken woman underneath.
The best examples of Shaw's powerful performance are exemplified by two scenes. The first of which is where she has an almost motherly chat with Emily, we see past the cold-hearted bitch of a killer and get a glimpse of the woman she could have been. The second scene is at the party for her son when she questions Emily about the card and presents that Emily was supposed to bring. The level of tension during this scene is terrific; it's pretty much how I would imagine I would feel watching a timer on a bomb, strapped to my legs, slowly tick down to zero, the viewer is captivated with the threat of an almighty explosion.
One of the most significant problems in horror films is the final girl syndrome, where the female victim is left with very little to do but run away, fall over, run away again and probably fall over a few more times. In reality, this isn't something that Laura Ellen Wilson has to worry too much about in this film as she spends the majority of it tied up in one way or another. The shallow portrayal of the final girl has always been a major bugbear of mine. Thankfully Emily's performance and the script make significant inroads into addressing this. Laura delivers powerful, and more importantly, believable execution of a woman kidnapped and forced to endure their worst nightmare. No matter what the emotional base she is required to deliver, be it a woman terrified for her life, or as a woman determined to find a way out of this nightmare, Laura is nothing short of hypnotic, she more than holds her own on a screen that could have been dominated by the more outlandish Richard and Mary.
Which brings us to Richard, played by Rod Glenn. WOW! I could leave it at that, as this is one hell of a performance. To use probably the most used word in the film Richard is a cunt, a complete and utter cunt. Glenn is a revelation; it is clear he is having a ball with this role. He doesn't miss a beat; every line is delivered with such enthusiasm and gusto that you are left with no doubt who the real monster of this film is. Richard is like a nasty little ball of vile piss, puke and puss, an utterly abhorrent character, with no redeeming factors. It is a testament to Glenn's performance that Richard doesn't come across as an over the top cliched villain. Such is the power of Glenn's acting that after watching Monster I had to repeat to myself, it's only a film, he's not like that in real life, so I really shouldn't kick in the throat if I ever meet him. He made me so angry after watching this I became drawn entirely into his delivery. When this film hist the festival circuit, if Rod Glenn doesn't win an award for best actor then there is something really fucked up in the world.
As a horror film Monster is an unadulterated success, an unrelenting urban horror tour de force. They say you don't want to know what goes on behind closed doors, and after watching this, I don't think I ever will. Brutal, uncomfortable, and entirely nasty, Monster is marvellously malignant, and a malevolent masterpiece
While the film has been finished Matt and Michael are still looking for funding to help with the promotion and distribution of them. Please follow th link below and give the the boost they deserve they have some great perks such as
Tee-Shirt "A Bit Too Cunty"
When Jake says he doesn't like the birthday cake, Richard asks why. "Is it a bit too cunty for you?" Own the tee-shirt. Warn people you're a bit too cunty for them... Includes photo of birthday cake scene.
Almost sold out! One ticket to the premiere of MONSTER, showing June 29th in London. Please note: Ticket via Email. The film is a mid-morning showing. There will be cast present and a Q&A with cast, director and writers. Travel and Accommodation not included
All The Authors
Matt Shaw, Mark Cassell, Michael Bray, Justin Park, Rod Glenn... All authors, all involved in this film. Get a signed book from each of the authors sent direct to your home!
Tracy Shaw's outfit
A red leather skirt. The outfit worn by Tracy Shaw as Mary in the infamous Party scene. Straight from set and a little bit bloody... Your chance to own a part of the film! Includes a picture of Tracy in her outfit, on-set.
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