Movie Review: ‘Monstrous’

Review by James Lindorf

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally and often unexpectedly, an actor plays a character so well you can’t imagine anyone else in the role. Whether it is Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada,” Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, or Alan Rickman and Chadwick Boseman in everything they did, these performances live beyond their movies. Other times like with Director Chris Sivertson’s (I Know Who Killed Me, All Cheerleaders Die) latest film “Monstrous,” it seems like a character was created with one person in mind. With her history of playing in wholesome but twisted families in “The Addams Family,” “Casper,” and even “Speed Racer,” Christina Ricci was the perfect choice to lead this horror film set in the idyllic 1950s. Screen Media Films will release “Monstrous” in theaters and On Demand on May 13th.

What appears to be the start of a typical day for Laura (Ricci) and her seven-year-old son Cody (Santino Barnard) turns into a trip to a remote lakeside farmhouse instead of just another day of school and housework. The pair are fleeing their abusive husband and father and looking to start a new life in a peaceful setting. Still traumatized and trying to ease into a new school and a new job, their physical and mental well-being will be pushed to the limit by an aggressive landlord and a monstrous presence in the lake.

Ricci had to be in mind when writer Carol Chrest was penning the script because she is perfect as Laura. Unfortunately, that is almost the complete list of compliments that I can offer to “Monstrous.” Ricci’s biggest costar, Barnard, doesn’t have to worry about the weight of expectations that Haley Joel Osment, Abigail Breslin, or the cast of Harry Potter had to deal with because he is not very good here. In a larger scale film, his performance could be hidden, but here he is in direct competition with Ricci, and he has the second most scenes and lines highlighting the fact that he was not ready for a role of this magnitude.

The second most significant weakness is the story itself. It has one outstanding character and a solid ending, but the journey to get the character there is, in a word, dull. Laura gets to run the gamut of emotions with anger, happiness, frustration, and fear, but they are all dampened with nothing going above a 7. This isn’t all bad because if everything is at 11, the character may feel unbalanced, but we needed at least the terror at a 10 to balance with June Cleaverness of the period setting. From the home and vehicles to the costumes and hairstyles, that setting is the second-best element of the film. It felt like seeing a colorized and HD version of the shows I grew up seeing on Nick at Nite.

“Monstrous” is a step above many of the direct to Syfy horror movies, which may be enough to make it a must-watch for Ricci’s legion of diehard fans, but its other struggles earn a score of 2 out of 5 for me.

Rating: PG-13
Genre: Horror, Mystery & Thriller
Director: Chris Sivertson
Producer: Robert Yocum, Sasha Yelaun, B.I. Rosen, Johnny Remo
Writer: Carol Chrest
Release Date: May 13th, 2022

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