So, between work, baby/family time, and sleep, I finally finished watching "The Monster." Zoe Kazan and her young co-star, future Anne of Green Gables Ella Ballentine, really do act the holy heck out of this movie. And for me their acting really elevates what might otherwise be a very routine exercise in genre tropes. (Admittedly, the film includes one age-old cliche that caused me to do an internal facepalm and say, aloud, to no one in particular, "C'mon!") Reviewers have noted that the movie isn't as profound as writer-director Bryan Bertino seems to want it to be, and I think that's accurate. However, it's much less shallow than it could have been.
Fortifying the standard monster-movie beats is the wrenching relationship between Kazan's Kathy and her young daughter, Lizzy, played by Ballentine. Critics have rightly noted that the title could refer just as easily to Kathy, who is by turns abusive and neglectful toward Lizzy. However, as I noted in my last post, it's really a triple entendre: monster, mother, and addiction. What makes "The Monster" a tragedy, and truly one of the saddest horror movies I've seen, is Kathy's fervent, almost palpable regret about all the emotional and psychological crud her behavior has heaped on Lizzy.
I don't leave this film thinking Kathy doesn't love Lizzy, or Lizzy doesn't love Kathy. I do come away with great sadness -- that their relationship was so broken, and that it took such extreme circumstances to move them both toward healing.