Directed by Chris Sivertson.
Starring Christina Ricci, Santino Barnard, Don Baldaramos, Colleen Camp, Lew Temple, Carol Anne Watts, and Nick Vallelonga.
The story centers on a traumatized woman fleeing from her abusive ex-husband with her 7-year-old son. In their new remote sanctuary, they find they have a bigger, more terrifying monster to deal with.
As Monstrous begins, Laura (Christina Ricci) has packed up her belongings and taken her young son Cody (Santino Barnard) to a rented cottage. She claims to be escaping an abusive husband and suffers from PTSD, although the boy doesn’t see what was so evil about his father and wants to return home. The new home has plenty of space and room for activities, but Cody has trouble making friends and often feels ignored by his mom. There also happens to be a demon emerging from the lake outside, trying to capture the boy and submerge him underwater.
Without saying much (the reason I don’t want to is that the film is already incredibly predictable), monstrous is a ridiculous exercise from director Chris Sivertson (responsible for so bad they are good classics such as the Lindsay Lohan vehicle I Know Who Killed Me) that, at one point, sees Laura breaking down in front of her new boss to fight back against the patriarchy while explaining that she has to protect her son from a literal monster at night. The delivery from Christina Ricci is absurdly over-the-top and all-around poor, but it’s hard to blame anyone for not being able to do much with such an inert script from Carol Chrest. If nothing else, there is an attempt to get weird and imaginative with some of the terror sequences, but they never really succeed since nothing about the movie is scary or induces dread.
Monstrous also aspires to be a period piece, as Laura looks and dresses like your ordinary 1950s housewife while falling asleep to classic horror movies and mundane infomercials. The problem is that everything from the lighting to the set details is so off that from the beginning, one knows it’s either a case of significant incompetence or another supernatural twist afoot. For most of the short 88-minute running time, one is waiting for Monstrous to reveal the obvious.
The creature design also does the film no favors, as it’s visually generic and one of the most overused cliché metaphors in the book. There are also brief flashbacks to Laura’s childhood interactions with the ghost, phonecalls from her abusive partner and mother despite there being no way for anyone to have the number, and an older married couple that owns the cottage, with one of them becoming increasingly more suspicious as to what’s going on over there (which mainly leads to more embarrassingly overblown dialogue exchanges).
It’s hard to tell if the script or Christina Ricci is the one confused, although it’s probably both. Laura is a likable character because she is trying to protect her son and stand up for herself during oppressive times, but she also comes across as a neglectful mother, not necessarily because she is stressed out. She refuses to listen to Cody about nearly everything and doesn’t even behave like a rational parent. Of course, there are reasons for this, but the explanations don’t take away from the fact that it’s all horrendously executed and acted, and there’s also a case to be made that the movie makes even less sense once all the cards are on the table. Monstrous is monstrously bad.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com