Monstrous (2020)

Director: Bruce Wemple

Running Time: 86 Minutes

Starring: Anna Shields, Rachel Finninger, Hannah McKechnie, Catharine Daddario, Kyrie Ellison-Keller, Dylan Grunn

My review of Monstrous was first published at Bloody Good Screen.

To quote the Metatron from Kevin Smith’s Dogma, “If there isn’t a movie about it, it’s not worth knowing, is it?” Perhaps this is why so many creatures of myth and folklore are brought to the big screen, to spread the word about their legend in ways that may be passed down to future generations. There’s often a notable feature for such creatures, usually in the horror genre, but Bigfoot is a little different. The most notable films for the aforementioned creature would be more family friendly fare, such as Harry and the Hendersons, or Laika’s lovable Missing Link. Director Bruce Wemple and screenwriter Anna Shields play with such a myth, and the image of the hairy loner, for a tale full of more ideas than you’d initially expect.

After her dear friend mysteriously vanishes, Silvia (Anna Shields) goes searching for answers. Responding to an advert, she agrees to share a ride with Alex (Rachel Finninger), travelling to an Adirondack town that’s known for its Bigfoot sightings. But upon getting there, Silvia learns the woods hides something more sinister than she could imagine.

From that bit of plot summary, I hope you understand why our lead character goes on this journey, in her search for answers. The reason I say that is because, while watching the feature, it didn’t feel as though enough was done to sell her basic motivation. What we’re given is sad glances at a picture, while music plays trying to tug at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel like enough to capture how Silvia has been affected, and how much she misses her friend. As such, it wrongly came off as though she was driven by sexual attraction, with the lack of matches on a dating app seemingly playing a key part. Due to that, viewers are left questioning why she doesn’t call this quest off and run the other way, as opportunities certainly present themselves.

This leads into a notable issue with the film, as we follow characters who feel so apart from reality, from how they act to the words they say. No matter how many times you have the leads kiss, it’s difficult to buy into their characters being this invested in a relationship moving so rapidly. There’s also the supporting character of Jamie, who feels too nonsensical to function. He’s initially the driving force of the story, before he’s suddenly sidelined by dodgy tacos. You get the impression the cast are trying their darndest, but they can only do so much with their roles, and somehow, the Sasquatch feels like the most realistic character on-screen.

A key moment comes when Silvia opens up to Alex, recounting a tragic moment from her past. Moments like these tend to be saved for defining revelations, but what’s told here doesn’t do anything of the sort. It doesn’t shed a light on the character, make her actions anymore understandable, or inform their arc for this film. It just comes out of nowhere to add to the tragedy, and considering she’s already out there trying to solve her friend’s disappearance, this especially feels pointless. As it plays out, this reveal is only useful to segue into another sex scene.

For a tale about a mythological figure, I haven’t mentioned much about how they actually factor into the story. For what it’s worth, Anna Shields’ script has a number of interesting ideas, but perhaps too many have been poured into this one film. As such, the scattershot focus leaves little room for much to breath. When it comes to the Sasquatch story, it’s framed around an entirely different tale, and Bruce Wemple’s direction never manages to sell the necessary terror. At least there’s a decent kill to close things off with, but by then, it feels too little, too late.