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Review: Monstrous – “The effects work is really impressive”

Christina Ricci in MONSTROUS

Written by Carol Chrest (Incident at Devil’s Den: A True Story) and directed by Chris Sivertson (I Know Who Killed Me), Monstrous stars Christina Ricci (The Addams Family, Yellowjackets) and is released in the UK on the 11th of June. 

Laura (Ricci) and her young son, Cody (Santiago BarnardPenny Dreadful: City of Angels), move into a new home on a sunny Californian afternoon. The landlord and his wife seem a little strange, but Laura has a big smile, everyone is dressed immaculately in bright 50s garb and the house itself looks ripped straight from the pages of the Susie Homemaker magazines Laura reads. 

But all is not well. Cody swears he saw a monster emerging from the lake that is now menacing him. Phone calls and snippets of dialogue hint that Laura has, and may still be, experiencing mental difficulties. Meds may, or may not be, being taken and Laura seems to have legged it with Cody without telling her husband, for reasons yet unknown. 

It’s an intriguing setup and one which begs for you to begin analysing everything and trying to figure out what the gimmick is and what the twist is going to be from the off. Unfortunately, Monstrous, Chrest and Sivertson show waaay too much of their hand waaay too often and deducing what the deal is will be an absolute breeze for all but the most on-their-phone of viewers. 

The strange thing is that – either interestingly, strangely, or frustratingly, depending on how much you’re digging it – things are not wrapped up particularly well, with threads left hanging, not tied in a bow, and the whole thing ending in a sort of lackadaisical dreamy drift away instead of with any kind of full answer or full stop. 

The currently back on the rise again Ricci gives it her all and really works those subtle cracks that are starting to show in her Stepford Wife smile so well, but is ultimately just let down by the material and the edit. Barnard is fine, screaming well when in danger and managing to not grate on the nerves, and the costuming and production design nails the mid-century suburban aesthetic. 

The score leaves no lasting impression whatsoever, but the effects work is really impressive and conjures up a terrifying looking cool and slimy something with what looks to be, hopefully, mostly practical work. 

Unsatisfying, but with a few bright spots, Monstrous is more a lite psychological thriller with a few creepy bits than the horror film it’s billed as, and while not a waste of time, is just a bit disappointing.

MONSTROUS will be released in the UK on Monday 11h July, courtesy of Koch Films. It will be available via Amazon, as well as Sky Store, Virgin Movies, Apple TV / iTunes, Google Play, Rakuten TV and Xbox.

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