Director: Bryan Bertino
Starring : Zoe Kazan, Scott Speedman, Ella Ballentine. USA. 1h 31m
This American horror was written and directed by Bryan Bertino and i have to admit that I haven’t paid much attention to him since his devastating brilliant debut, The Strangers (2008), it seems that his style is to meld together stark horror and gore with some raw emotions and it’s ever present in this unconventional creature feature.
A young girl, Lizzy (Ballentine) and her tattered mother Kathy ( Kazan) are en route to her father as it’s his turn for custody, due to Kathy’s alcoholism, Lizzy has to spend a lot of time looking after her mother and escaping her wrath. Through flashbacks it’s evident that Lizzy wants to stay with her father permanently and loathes her mother and her addiction.
After a rough start the pair hit the road, Kathy gives her daugher a family heirloom, a watch that belonged to her grandmother and implies that her wish has come true and she can now live with her father and won’t be returning. As the night falls they hit something in the road injuring Kathy. Lizzy calls for help but in the meantime they discover that they hit a wolf, however it has sustained wounds that look like an animal attack.
Eventually the tow truck arrives, they know an ambulance is also on the way, Jessie (the two truck guy) starts work on the car when he’s attacked by a vicious monster ripping his arm off, the two women are pretty hysterical while Jessie is dragged into the woods by this unknown critter.
The movie progresses as the pair try to stay alive and battle this beast the seems intent to stalk and kill anything that comes into it’s patch of the woods. The flashbacks are brilliant and soon the movie is dividing into two, one monster flick and the other a taut emotional drama showing a family broken at the core. Lizzie doesn’t have a happy childhood, both of her parents are so unstable the poor kid is a mess. But it’s clear that she blames her mother for everything. Her mother, often caught up with booze, does care for her daughter but doesn’t seem able to show it. When the flashbacks are over the rest of the film is stuck on this small stretch of highway surrounded by trees and steeped in the rain there’s nowhere to go, the two have to face their fears.
Kazan’s performance is outstanding, the only film I remember her in is Fracture, but she’s dropped the puppy fat added in some rainbow hair and matured into an amazing actress, both convincing and powerful. Lizzys role was just as difficult as the mother’s role, the lifetime of torment has fucked the child up royaly, in the early stages of the movie she’s almost as annoying as the boy from Babadook (2014) but soon you realise why she’s so difficult, but the big question is what/who is the monster.
The creature is mostly hidden in shadows but it’s presence is felt like a huge shadow that overcasts everything. It remains quite mysterious, it is simply just a monster, and all it needs to do is frighten so it’s adapted throughout the film to serve that purpose. But soon you’ll be asking yourself what the real monster is and is the beast a metaphor for something else..
Strangely a dark coming of age movie, and skillfully crafted from a master of suspense and terror, Bertino really has outdone himself again. The movie has just the right balance of drama and gore. There is a tense atmosphere out on that lonely road, it feels like an extended version of the the introduction to Ils (2006) where the mother and daughter are arguing in the car when they are stopped and attacked by laughing ghouls.
This is an important film as it had no real heros, everyone is struggling and yet they find something within themselves to do the right thing, an alcoholic mother can be damaging but slowly perceptions are changed and a strong bond is revealed. This isn’t your typical role model and these are very difficult characters but this isn’t your typical horror, thrilling and very personal.
L – A lonely stretch of road…
5s – Bryan Bertino, Scott Speedman
A – Real Monsters