Frightfest: Monolith (2023)

Director: Matt Vesely

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Starring: Lily Sullivan, Ling Cooper Tang, Ansuya Nathan, Erik Thomson, Terence Crawford, Matt Crook, Kate Box, Rashidi Edward, Brigid Zengeni, Damon Herriman

Disgraced after a defamation trial, a journalist (Lily Sullivan) attempts to salvage her career by hosting ‘Beyond Believable’, a podcast focused on solving mysteries and uncovering hidden truths. This change has left the lead frustrated, as she puts off finding a story to center the first episode around. That all changes when she receives an anonymous email which intrigues her.

The details connect her to Floramae (Ling Cooper Tang), a woman rattled by the unearthing of something from her past involving a mysterious black brick. This takes the interviewer down a rabbit hole, as she dives into the origins of the artefact which has massive changes for people's lives, and becomes convinced that the object is of alien origin.

The podcast's first episode ends by asking people to get in contact and share their own similar experiences. Many of the interviewees mention visions, with their recollections being realized on-screen through tense sequences seen through a first-person perspective. Such compelling stories drive the interviewer to provide a specific narrative about the objects mystique, employing duplicitous methods such as editing the interviews to alter people's intentions, and secretly recording things that are supposedly "off the record".

As the only on-screen performer, Sullivan holds viewer's attention with an engaging portrayal capturing the lead's desire to make something out of this story. Does she truly believe this is something special which must be shared, or is she driven by a need to make-up for the past? As warnings about spreading this information arise, is this work doing more harm than good? And does stopping this outweigh the podcast's success? The ambiguity makes for an engrossing figure who grapples with what decision is right for her.

As the mystery deepens across Lucy Campbell's screenplay, director Matt Vesely effectively integrates that unravelling thread within a confined chamber piece that holds one's attention. Despite some of the horror elements feeling less interesting than the initial intrigue, the film remains rooted to the interviewer's personal journey and whether she can right previous wrongs regardless of the cost. What's left is an impressive feature debut for Vesely.

Monolith made its UK Premiere at Frightfest 2023