★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Chris Siverston
Christina Ricci is the main reason to check out this tale of a mother and her young son haunted by something that emerges from a nearby body of water, but Monstrous definitely has other things going for it, as well.
Monstrous blends supernatural elements with family drama as Laura (Christina Ricci) moves from Arizona to a rented lakeside house in California with her seven-year-old son Cody (Santino Bernard) to escape her husband, with whom Laura’s mother curiously sides instead of her own daughter. Despite negative circumstances, Laura does her best to put on positive, cheery airs reflecting the ideal 1950s lifestyle for which she strives, with an oft-repeated Hotpoint dishwasher advertisement and music from that period providing sound design and the soundtrack for the film.
Something is amiss, though, as Cody keeps seeing a hideous creature that starts off in the lake outside his window and eventually ventures into his room. When Laura discovers that the entity is not merely a figment of Cody’s imagination, her life begins unraveling.
The screenplay by Carol Chrest contains some surprises, and while I won’t spoil anything here, I will admit that I wasn’t expecting some of its “gotcha” elements. Director Chris Siversston (I Know Who Killed Me; All Cheerleaders Die) does a solid job of dropping breadcrumbs without tipping his hand too much, and he shows a deft hand at wringing out the most from the script’s dramatic sequences while delivering the goods in the eeriness department.
Ricci’s performance is the main driving force behind Monstrous. She nails every nuance of her character, whose outwardly ebullient personality begins to show cracks around the edges, paralleling the perfect life she tries to live. Bernard’s Cody is mostly a depressed boy who never wanted to leave the home he knew and shows it, but the young actor does nice work in the role.
Monstrous isn’t the most original fright-fare offering, but it looks great with period-authentic set design and a great color palette, and it is well directed. And again, Ricci’s performance alone is worth the watch.
Review by Joseph Perry
Screen Media presents Monstrous in theaters and On Demand from May 13, 2022.
Monstrous will be unleashed in the UK on Monday 11th July, courtesy of Koch Films. It will be available to download via Sky Store, Virgin Movies, Apple TV / iTunes and Amazon, as well as Google Play and Xbox.