Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent has created a marvelous ten-minute black & white expressionist horror-noir vision of single motherhood in Monster (2005), about a child haunted by a hideous being.
The tale begins with an innocent grotesque, childhood play with all the mock-violence children can so easily embody. The boy (Luke Ikimis-Healey giving a splendid performance), playing at being a knight with toy sword, is jabbing the monstrous face of a horrific rag doll (which i wish I owned).
A mother's ordinary moments seem scarcely conducive to peace. Mom (Susan Prior) appears to live in a perpetual state of exasperation. The abject messiness of the house, the cat killing an enormous moth, a child running about the house like a hellion, the look on her face is all too familiar, though when adapted to a clinematic suspense environment seems likely to presage something far worse than glowering dissatisfaction.
Looking down from upstairs the boy yells, "Mommy! I'm killing a monster for you!" with such innocence & sincerity. The atmosphericsx are such that water running on dirty dishes in a sink, or soup boiling on the stove, become ominous. And then young Samuel screams his head off when encountering his own strange doll in a closet where his mom had tossed it & where he hadn't expected to come upon it.
Momentarily frightened by his scream, she's upset to realize what once again he's carrying on about. "It's just a doll!" she tells him fiercely, & he just as certain: "No it isn't! It's real!" And that evening, she is startled by an unknown something, & not merely infected by her son's fears.
[SPOILER ALERT!] All too soon the threat her son has lived under reveals itself, a grotesque figure that has manifested from the doll, a clawed, enormous figure with hideous toothy maw.
Never underestimate the strength of a mother of any species protecting its young. Without ever turning into a joke, the abject terror becomes something entirely different than might be expected.
Mom stands between her child & the monster & behaves purely as a mother to defeat it. "Go back to your room! If you come back here without my permission, I'll kill you. Do you understand?" [END SPOILER ALERT]
And when the crisis is over, there's a little fillip at the end that makes this much more than just another tale of "the monster in the closet is real" & very startlingly about the mysteries of motherhood.
A remarkable film which sustains suspense & horror while there unfolds a tale worth telling. It was a crowd-pleaser at several film festivals (Slamdance, Aspen Shortsfest, Krlovy Vary International in the Czech Republic, Philadelphia Film Festival, South by Southwest in Austin, & so on), & took the audience award at Edinburgh's Dead By Dawn festival.
One enthused critic compared it to Fritz Lang or F. W. Murnau, which I tell ya, it ain't an exaggeration. It can be viewed on-line at www.atomfilms.com.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl