Reviewbr> "Mommy I'm killing a monster for you." - Boy
In an inner city apartment a Mother seems slightly withdrawn as she fails to wash the dishes in an overfilled sink. Upstairs her young son is loud, obnoxious, and running wild as Mom appears to be on the brink of not copping with her situation. Mom goes upstairs, discovers junior has wet the bed again, and has been hacking away at one ugly rag doll. She takes the doll downstairs and throws it into the stair cupboard. Her son confesses to being scared of a monster that is going to eat him up, and mom offers a place in her bed for the night, which is just as well as one figures that spare bedding is at a premium in this household.
Mom thinks she sees something in the stair cupboard, something that shouldn't be there, something malevolent. Later that night she is woken by a loud noise downstairs and finds something unexpected on the stairs, something that might just be planning to eat her son all up. Mom is soon involved in a struggle with a supernatural force, a struggle with her son as the prize! The question Director Kent poises is what is the struggle?
Surprisingly this is the first review of a short movie for 2014 Scaryminds has published, what the heck have we been doing! Not surprising the short in question, Monster, is among the best to have ever been filmed in this Country. Director/Writer Jennifer Kent used it as a basis for the critically acclaim Babadook (2014). I'm not about to throw any spoilers on the table for this review, and no I have not managed to check into Kent's feature length debut movie yet, so don't go seeking answers here we are simply going to focus on the short.
Monster runs for just over ten minutes, is filmed in black and white, and shows a Director with a strong eye for theme and atmosphere. I don't normally use the term "thriller", it's over used currently, but in this case the notion fits what Kent has going down. Don't expect a blood soaked rampage, Kent keeps it to scares, the idea that maybe we are watching a movie deeply imbedded with symbolism, and of course some taunt editing. There are no wasted frames in the ten minutes we rocked out to, Kent keeps things fixed on where we are headed.
While Monster follows the fairly standard "monster in the closet" that turns out to be a real threat, the viewer is left wandering if what they are watching is more metaphor than waking nightmare. Okay bear with me here, and don't worry I won't get too enthused about the themes. Mom looks to be suffering from some sort of loss, I assume her husband has died or walked out on her, in fact Mom looks like she might be making a steady diet of valium. Meanwhile her son is running rampant up on the first floor, you know the sort of kid that might just need some physical punishment in his near future. Mom, taking time out of her funk, heads upstairs to find her son's bedroom resembles a junkyard and he has wet the bed, which might be a recurring situation. The only time Mom shows any sort of animation is when she is battling with the monster, anyone else picking up the idea that she might be fighting depression, getting out of the doldrums, avoiding roundly abusing the terror tot? Just a thought, but there's certainly some depth in the short if you want to offer it the couch and ask it what its feeling.
Overall the short left me with a surreal feeling, of things not being quite what they are portrayed as being. Director Kent and actress Susan Prior nail the idea to the barn door and left everything at an ambivalent level, take from this one what you want and discard the rest, open to interpretation. The set certainly leant itself to the feeling, with what appears to be a cool inner city pad that is fraying at the edges. There's wall paper missing from one wall, wooden features that have seen better days, a feeling of decay and things being let go. Either Kent is trying to portrayed Mom's internal mood via the environment the movie is shot in, or the Director simply lucked out and got to film in an inner city pad prior to the local yuppies descending on it and turning it into the next feature article for House and Garden. It certainly inspires a spooky atmosphere, which is pretty much what you need to achieve.
Yes I know, you are all waiting on a description of the actual monster, and I got to say it's a ripper. Kent has clearly dialled into the Tim Burton world of not overly threatening creature design while having menace dripping from the fangs of her creation. We're talking humanoid with large claws, a face fill of shark fangs, and an intense Edward Scissorhand gaze. For sure if you wanted a childhood monster lurking under the bed or in the closet then Kent's monster fits the bill. The Director plays off her creation wonderfully well with quick glimpses and some time lapse scenes really adding the chill factor. I'll leave it to the reader to discover where the monster comes from, and as explained above it might just be a metaphor.
While there are certainly some chills to be had, of the haunted house variety, Director Kent shies away from anything approach blood or gore, it's not the aim of her movie after all. Equally T&A is simply not happening, though the rag doll that plays a hefty part at the start of the movie is buck naked, hey knock yourself out people. Director Kent is strutting her stuff here and making a statement about her prowess behind the camera, she don't need no distraction from what she has going down.
At a tad over ten minutes Monster isn't going to make a hole in your day and for mine does required viewing for anyone want to check into The Babadook later in the year. Jennifer Kent sure is talented; both from a writing stance and behind the camera, someone to keep an eye on would be my advice. Monster visits loss, family, and overcoming adversity, surprisingly for a horror movie it also speaks about redemption and claiming back what you have lost. Monster needs to be seen by not just the horror community, but by the wider movie watching audience, simply superb, do yourself a favour and catch a viewing below.