“Monstrous” Offers a Watchable Queer-led Indie Thriller – Movie Review

Monstrous 2020 film review
Sylvia in “Monstrous” (Image: Screengrab)

If you’re in the mood for a horror-thriller flick featuring Bigfoot and a queer woman trying to survive, Monstrous might offer what you’re looking for.

I was provided a free screener of Monstrous for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.

This review of Monstrous contains minor spoilers.

When it comes to indie horror movies, I’m quite forgiving. Trying to create a full-length feature on a budget isn’t easy. So, of course, “innovative” shortcuts will be taken. As far as Monstrous is concerned, it’s definitely a movie that offered some enjoyable moments. But keep in mind it does look like it settles in the lower-end of the indie creature-movie budget scale. Don’t get me wrong. By no means do the visuals look bad. But you can tell it was a low-cost production.

Also, being a budget-flick, you should know that Bigfoot will only appear occasionally. So, if you’re going into this film expecting to see a lot of Bigfoot, I recommended managing your expectations.

I also have to share that Monstrous is more of a thriller than a creature-centric horror-fest. Yes, Bigfoot’s an important part of the narrative (and made for some tense moments), but the real danger in this offering was about the darkness found in humanity and the risk that strangers pose.

Once you know what you’ll be getting from Monstrous, I think you will enjoy it a lot better.

The official description reads:

Sylvia, a lonely 20-something, goes searching for answers after her friend mysteriously vanishes in Whitehall, NY, an Adirondack town known for its Bigfoot sightings. She sets off with a mysterious, charming young woman, Alex, hellbent on getting to Whitehall for different reasons. Sylvia soon learns that hiding in the woods is an evil more sinister than she could ever imagine.

From director Bruce Wemple, and starring Anna Shields, Rachel Finninger, Grant Schumacher, Hannah McKechnie, Catharine Daddario, Dylan Grunn, Peter Stray, Rick Montgomery Jr., and Thomas Brazzle.

I appreciated how the film handled the queer lead. Anna Shields, along with starring, also wrote this movie. I’m not saying that men can’t create films with well-written women. I’m just going to take this moment to acknowledge how Shields handled Sylvia as a fictional character.

Yes, Sylvia’s a lesbian, but her sexuality wasn’t exploited for the male gaze. She wasn’t experimenting and kissing girls at parties while men cheered them on (something that happens in a lot of horror and thriller movies with young characters). Sylvia’s comfortable with herself. Sylvia’s struggles dealt with what happened to her little sister and her search for a missing friend rather than trying to figure out her sexuality.

As for how the plot progressed, I liked how Sylvia found herself traveling with Alex to Whitehall, NY. At first, I wasn’t on board with how quickly Sylvia and Alex’s relationship progressed. But then I realized it made sense when you considered Sylvia’s loneliness. There was even a scene where Sylvia couldn’t find anyone near to hookup with on an app. Sylvia’s also being ignored by her mother. That’s why I think she clung to the attention Alex gave her.

With there only being, basically, three major characters (Sylvia’s friend Jamie having more of a supporting role), the script had to be well-written enough to make me feel invested in the trio. And I think Shields was able to accomplish that. A moment focusing on Jamie made me worry about his fate. So, again, kudos to Shields for that. Everyone in the cast did a good job in their roles.

As for the technical aspects, I was a bit confused with the camerawork at the beginning. The wide shots featuring Bigfoot really threw my perspective. It made me go, “Is some other character in the film shooting what’s happening from far away?”

It took me a few seconds to realize why such a choice was made. Again, it came down to budgetary reasons. The wide shots were meant to show the size of the creature.

Also, I’m not sure if it was me, but the audio (sound mixing) felt a bit off during certain scenes. 

Monstrous being a movie that includes Bigfoot, I think the creative team used the creature effectively when we couldn’t see much of it. Certain scenes only showed the hairy arms or a dark silhouette. I think such choices worked in this film’s favor. I can’t say the same when Bigfoot decided to show itself during daylight. Personally I wouldn’t have made such a decision. It didn’t look great.

I liked how the script handled Bigfoot as a dangerous creature. There were reasons behind the way it acted. It wasn’t in most of the movie, but I was still able to understand it as a living creature.

Wrapping it up, I’ll say that Monstrous ended up being a watchable indie movie with thrills, chills, and gore. The queer lead was well-written, especially compared to how indie horror movies tend to portray queer characters.

Monstrous was made available on DVD and On Demand August 11, 2020.

Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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