PLOT: Seeking to escape her marriage, a mother moves to a secluded, pond-side home with her young son. But there’s something lurking in the pond, and it wants to take her child.
REVIEW: Chris Sivertson is best known for being the director responsible for the disastrous 2007 Lindsay Lohan thriller I Know Who Killed Me, a box office failure that only has a 9% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (The audience was kinder, being 26% positive.) Although the movie has gathered a following over the years, it has also been referred to as one of the worst movies ever made. Sivertson has been working steadily since making I Know Who Killed Me, with his new film Monstrous being perhaps his most high profile release in fifteen years. And if you only know him from I Know Who Killed Me, you’ll be glad to find that this movie is a substantial step up from that one. Monstrous probably won’t blow you away, but it’s certainly watchable.
Written by Carol Chrest, the film follows 1950s housewife Laura (Christina Ricci) as she escapes from her marriage, seeking to remove her husband from her life – and the life of their 7-year-old son Cody (Santino Barnard) – because of some vague terrible thing he did. Laura and Cody move into a large, secluded home that sits on the edge of a pond… and of course frightening things start happening once they’ve settled into this new place. Cody is one of those odd, creepy movie kids to begin with, and soon he’s claiming that there’s a monster lurking in the pond. A monster that’s specifically targeting him. It isn’t long before Laura also becomes aware that something weird is happening in this place.
Monstrous has a few twists to throw the audience’s way, and if you pay close attention to the dialogue and details you might guess at least one of them well before the “shocking reveal”. We’ve seen variations on this kind of thing plenty of times before. But even if you do figure out what’s going on, the journey to the reveal is a somewhat interesting ride. The answers might kill the movie for some viewers, especially those who haven’t been suspecting them, but that’s the risk of twists.
For a movie about a mother and son living beside a pond that contains a child-snatching creature, Monstrous is surprisingly relaxed for much of its running time. The sequences of the monster emerging from the lake and visiting the house aren’t the most thrilling. Not even for Cody, who becomes buddies with this thing and starts calling it the “Pretty Lady”. Monstrous is never all that scary. It occasionally tries to be intense, but doesn’t quite manage it. The mystery is what drives this film forward more than the scares, or attempts at scares. Don’t go into this one with high hopes for the monster that earns the film its title.
Barnard is effective at making Cody come off like a real pain in the neck, and Ricci delivers a strong performance as Laura. The majority of the movie is carried on the shoulders of these two cast members, and Sivertson found the right actors for the job. Everyone else in the film has brief roles, with a couple of the most prominent being Colleen Camp as Mrs. Langtree, the distrusting half of the couple that owns the house Laura and Cody have moved into, and Lew Temple as Laura’s boss Mr. Alonzo. It’s always good to see Camp and Temple in any movie, and Monstrous benefits from their presence.
If you want to kill some time with a dark mystery that has good performances and interesting but somewhat predictable twists, Monstrous is a fine choice to go with. Just keep your expectations low.
The biggest issue with this movie is the amount of times Ricci says the name “Cody”. Did no one on the set realize how ridiculous it was to have her say that name so many times? My name is Cody, and I usually like it when my name pops up in movies, but even I got tired of hearing it long before the movie was over. If you hate the name Cody, sitting through Monstrous will be torture for you. Even if you don’t have any strong feelings about the name, you’ll be sick of it by the time the end credits start rolling. I was reminded of a line from Batman Returns where Michelle Pfeiffer says, “That’s my name. Don’t wear it out, or I’ll make you buy me a new one.” The makers of Monstrous manage to wear out the name Cody in just 88 minutes.
Screen Media is giving Monstrous a theatrical and VOD release on May 13th. A DVD and Blu-ray release will follow on July 5th – and Amazon is accepting pre-orders at THIS LINK.
Originally published at www.joblo.com