The world needs more nuanced, interesting representations of women on screen, and that’s why we should be grateful for Zoe Kazan. In The Monster (directed by Bryan Bertino) Kazan plays a single mother bringing her daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) to Lizzy’s father when their car breaks down and they become stranded at the mercy of, well, a monster.
If the plot itself sounds simple, it is. But in the vein of the Misery and the also car-based Locke, the relatively small environment provides an arena for the actors to be the film’s center focus. “I think some of my favorite performances have been in horror movies,” Kazan said, in a phone interview. “The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, Halloween…”
It’s also not a coincidence that many of those films contain stellar female performances. “There are all movies that are dramas masquerading as horror movies. I wasn’t concerned about the genre, just if we’d be able to pull it off.”
Kazan describes her character, Kathy, as “not very well quipped to be a parent, self-loathing, which is impacting her child.”
Kathy never reverts into a one-dimensional stereotype of an alcoholic single mother. She has moments of failure, and moments of heroism, and neither outweigh or undermine the other. The true genius of The Monster (aside from its phallic-shaped villain) is in its ability to imagine a woman who is a mother without motherhood defining her existence.
The film requires patience, but it pays off—not in jump scares or even when the monster finally appears, but with chilling and well-rounded performances that will stick with you long after your fear of the monster in the woods.
‘The Monster’ is now in theaters and On Demand.