Director: Bruce Wemple
Performers: Anna Shields, Rachel Finninger, and Grant Shumacher
Buckle in for a road trip gone wrong with Monstrous (2020), a solid mix of stranger danger, suspense, and monster movie that delivers. No spoilers up here, In a quest to solve her best friend Dana’s mysterious disappearance, Sylvia (Anna Shields) and Dana’s boyfriend Jamie (Grant Schumacher) track her last known whereabouts to the Adirondack Mountains – the site of a rash of other disappearances.
As Sasquatch sightings intensify, so do the mysterious murders and missing persons. A tense ride that probes the consequences of isolation and the self -doubt Monstrous leaves its audience truly sated.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
It’s a really neat idea in Monstrous to focus on a pair of characters bonded over mutual loss in a nonsexual way. It reminded me very much (in a good way!) of the last half of Psycho (1960) when Marion Crane’s sister and boyfriend investigate The Bates Motel. But whereas those characters posed as a couple, Sylvia investigates the circumstances of her friend’s disappearance almost entirely alone.
A mysterious rideshare passenger, Alex, was the last to see Dana before she vanished. There some great subversive moments with Alex (Rachel Finninger), ostensibly catching a ride into the mountains. Both women, trapped in intimate travel situation for days, give in their attraction. But as Sylvia investigates further, what she uncovers is a clash of monsters with humanity caught in the middle. Alex, it turns out, has plenty to hide.
Finninger gets some fantastic moments that let her play with Alex’s psychology.
One monologue in which she describes winning a hunting challenge clearly shakes Sylvia, and it’s one of the most chilling moments in the film. Finninger is captivating, managing to convey so much growing contempt and fascination that it’s genuinely concerning watching Sylvia desperately masks her growing suspicions. Another fantastic scene involves a filmed murder – it’s artsy and strangely beautiful, something a serial killer would film for their personal enjoyment.
The effects are pretty solid! One makeup effect near the end is particularly convincing, and actually made me wince. The film doesn’t shy from gore, but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously.
It hits that sweet spot that should, arguably, make it a cult classic if given enough time and attention. Monstrous kills it on every level.
Monstrous is available On Demand and DVD August 11th.