The Monster: B-
How thou hast come again to find this Keeper – alone and withered as I am in the obsidian catacombs of VHS, in the ever-twisting silver maze of DVDs – I know not. I know only that I continue to watch!
And watch with horror, Dear Reader! I recently watched with mingled horror and amusement at this latest offering: The Monster, a tale of addiction, doom, and desperation only too familiar to your humble servant and Keeper of this tomb of terror!
Like the tale of King’s Cujo, here we have a woman trapped in her isolated and dilapidated vehicle, on a desolate road tucked in the remote and stormy woods, clutching her first-born daughter to her breast in abject terror. She quavers and sobs as a beast, driven by cruel hunger, stalks about the misty exterior, eyeing the isolated condemned with calculating hunger. The audience too is gripped with peril, unable to look away as the few unlucky enough to intervene – a towtruck man, a band of paramedics – meet their bloody destinies as the Monster’s prey.
And what of this beast, this Monster? It is not man, oh no Dear Reader! Here we have a hulking brute with the frame of an ape and the head of a vicious shark. Its body is covered in the most loathsome scales that shimmer with a sable iridescence in this storm that besieges our poor woman and her babe. Like the terrible and famous Alien, the Monster is a massive chunk of unforgiving shadow and teeth that devours all in its path.
And this, Dear Reader, is the film: The trapped and horrified mother and daughter, the malevolent stalking Monster. The darkness is its ally, a tent of horrible concealment into which the fiend retreats like a ravenous panther to pace about with vile stealth, emerging only to commit murder and strew the road with carnage. A weakness can be found in the Monster’s eyes which, like pebble-sized chunks of filthy glass, capture and reflect all lights shined directly into thus, inflicting the creature with a shocked instant of blindness and panic, inducing one of its enraged escapes into the surrounding night.
At its core, this abomination is a symbol, a metaphor for the addiction to alcohol which grips the woman tighter than she grips her only child to her own ferociously beating heart. In a multitude of shadowy flashbacks, we watch (always, we watch, Dear Reader!) as this same woman pickles her sensibilities with destructive excess of drink. Her family bonds erode, her role as a mother diminishes, her daughter’s love vanishes completely. Between tear-choked gasps we learn that she realizes her folly, but can no more stop the rise of her arm to deliver the bottle to her lips than one could stop the rise of the sun which splits the dark horizon each morning. Alas, the bottle itself is a Monster, a Monster unchallenged! Thus is the eventual immolation of the Monster of the woods a cathartic extinguishing of the “Monster” of the bottle which restores the bond of mother and daughter that had nearly suffocated entirely in a tarn of the cheapest rum.
Dear Reader, I would be remiss if I did not concede that I, your cursed and eternal watcher, too have been ensnared by the intoxicating escape offered by strong drink. Many a poor horror film hath inspired my own arm to deliver the stinging kiss of the bottle until my wits fled my body and a Monstrous oblivion swallowed my being! ‘Tis true!
The aesthetic of this film offers no flamboyance of frivolity; the shadowy woods, the sheets of obfuscating rain, and pale headlights which slice the night all act in black congress to produce an atmosphere of stationary dread and isolation in which we can appreciate the stark delivery of this core metaphor for the battle with alcoholism, the battle against rum. The destructive bouts with the beast who comes crashing from the woods parallel the family’s war with our woman’s alcoholic abuse.
Ultimately, a number of factors led me to bestow this “B-” to The Monster, which is worthy of your eye, Dear Reader: the design of the foe is all too familiar yet the beast is mighty and imposing still; the confined setting is familiar as well, but the atmosphere is one of constant and naked fear; repetition quickly renders the central metaphor of the film obtuse and obvious, yet there is admirable commitment to this thesis; the direction is superb; the acting and makeup are heart wrenching and real.
My Monster too, Dear Reader, is large and black and devilish. An abyss of VHS that threaten to swallow my mind and all!