The Monster (2016 film)

The Monster (originally titled There Are Monsters) is a 2016 American-Canadian monster horror film written and directed by Bryan Bertino, and starring Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine. Its plot follows a troubled mother and her adolescent daughter who find themselves stranded at night on a country road with a malicious creature hunting them.

The Monster
The Monster poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBryan Bertino
Written byBryan Bertino
Produced by
  • Bryan Bertino
  • Adrienne Biddle
  • Aaron L. Ginsberg
CinematographyJulie Kirkwood
Edited byMaria Gonzales
Music by
Distributed byA24
Release date
  • November 11, 2016 (2016-11-11) (U.S.)
Running time
91 minutes
CountriesUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$74,700[2]

The film was released through DirecTV Cinema on October 6, 2016, before opening in a limited release on November 11, 2016, via A24.[3]


Kathy (Zoe Kazan) is driving her teenage daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) to her father's house as it's his turn for custody. Tired of taking care of her abusive, alcoholic mother, Lizzy makes it clear she wants to live with her father permanently. As night falls, Kathy hits a wolf with her car. But its injuries look like they were sustained by an animal attack rather than their car. Kathy is injured in the collision, forcing Lizzy to call a tow truck and ambulance.

The tow truck arrives and its driver, Jesse, begins working underneath the car. Lizzy notices the wolf's body is gone and now becomes frightened. Tired with bickering, Kathy gets out of the car to talk to Jesse but cannot find him. Jesse's severed arm abruptly lands on the hood of the car. A severely mauled Jesse crawls out of the woods, only for a monstrous creature to drag him under the tow truck and eat him before Kathy can help.

Attracted by the sound of music emanating from Lizzy's teddy bear, the monster drags Kathy out from the car. Luckily, it is scared away by the approaching ambulance before it is able to kill Kathy. As Kathy and Lizzy cower in the ambulance, the monster slaughters the EMT team. It smashes into the ambulance when Kathy tries to drive off, causing her to swerve into the woods.

Kathy begins vomiting up blood and realizes she has internal bleeding. Now aware that the monster is scared away by bright light (and her inevitable death is coming), Kathy uses her lighter to make a torch and tells her daughter her plan. She's going to run into the woods so the monster will chase her while Lizzy escapes into the road to get help. Kathy finally admits to Lizzy she does truly love her; even more than life itself.

Under the impression Lizzy has gotten away, Kathy allows the monster to attack (and kill) her. But Lizzy, who was unwilling to leave her mother behind, chases it away with the flashlight. Upon realizing her mother is dead, a distraught and enraged Lizzy (now determined to avenge Kathy's death) uses a spray can from the ambulance combined with her mother's lighter to set the monster ablaze. It attempts to lunge at her with its last bits of strength while near-fatally wounded, but Lizzy beats it to death with a large stick finally killing it.

Lizzy remembers after a particularly hateful, alcohol-fueled encounter, Kathy apologized and correctly predicted Lizzy would grow up to be a better person than she was. As the sun rises, Lizzy emerges from the woods.




In 2014, Bryan Bertino announced that he would direct the film from a screenplay he also wrote. William Green and Aaron Ginsburg of Atlas Entertainment and Adrienne Biddle of Unbroken Pictures would serve as producers, while Richard Suckle and Sonny Mallhi would serve as executive producers.[4]

Commenting on his aspirations writing the screenplay, Bertino stated:

I did decide I was going to push myself to explore different kinds of fear, but finding my window in is always going to be the victims first. Even though monsters aren't real, it was fascinating to me to think, "Okay, I'm going to write a story in which I'm not necessarily here to tell you if monsters are real or not, I'm just saying what would happen if you broke down on the side of the road and there was a monster? What would you do? How terrifying would that be?[5]


Actor Character
Zoe Kazan Kathy
Ella Ballentine Lizzy
Aaron Douglas Jesse
Scott Speedman Roy
Christine Ebadi Leslie
Marc Hickox John
Chris Webb The Monster
Meeko Wolf

Elisabeth Moss was originally announced to star in the film in May 2014. The following year, after Moss dropped out of the production, Zoe Kazan joined the cast, replacing Moss.[6] Commenting on committing to the project, Kazan stated that she was "really captured by the story of these two people, especially of the mother really struggling against her worst behaviors to protect her child. She’s not in the habit of taking very good care of her daughter and I don’t think she’s well equipped for motherhood. I was moved by that storyline."[7] To prepare for the role as a mother, Kazan requested Ballentine's mother for baby photos of her to help Kazan get into the mindset of being a mother.[7]

In August 2015, it was announced that Scott Speedman, Aaron Douglas and Ella Ballentine all joined the cast of the film.[8] Speedman, who had previously starred in Bertino's directorial debut The Strangers (2008), was cast as Roy, Kathy's boyfriend.


Filming began in Ottawa, Ontario in the summer of 2015.[6] Principal photography concluded on August 21, 2015.[9] Reflecting on the shoot, Kazan stated: "We were in a very isolated situation shooting in rural Ontario, and there wasn’t a lot around. [Ella Ballentine and I] were basically the only actors in the film, so we spent a tremendous amount of time together and with her mom. It wasn’t all because we were just trying to bond for the movie, it was also because we enjoyed each other’s company. It definitely helped that bond as did the three days of rehearsal."[7]


Theatrical distributionEdit

In May 2015, A24 acquired U.S distribution rights to the film.[10] In April 2016, the first image of Kazan's character was revealed.[11] The film’s original title, There Are Monsters, was changed to The Monster in August 2016.[3]

The film was released on the DirecTV Cinema platform on October 6, 2016. On November 11, 2016, the film was given a limited theatrical release simultaneously with its debut on other video on demand platforms.[12][13]

The film screened at the Beyond Fest on October 6, 2016,[14] the Tacoma Film Festival on October 7, 2016,[15] and the Sitges Film Festival on October 15, 2016.[16]

Critical responseEdit

The Monster received positive reviews from film critics while receiving negative marks from moviegoers. It holds an 80% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 50 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Monster uses its effectively simple setup and a powerful lead performance from Zoe Kazan to deliver a traditional yet subtly subversive—and thoroughly entertaining—horror story. However, the audience approval rating is only 40%. "[17] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 69 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[18]

Manohla Dargis, in her review for The New York Times, compared the film to other horror stories about "monstrous motherhood" released for art house and multiplex crowds, saying The Monster was "cleverly pitched somewhere in between." Of the two main actresses and their roles, Dargis noted "Ms. Kazan gives her lungs a workout, and while she’s more persuasive as a scream queen than as a mother, she and Ms. Ballentine get the job done."[19] Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times praised Bertino's establishment of suspense, writing that he "doles out the jolts with a judicious hand. For a while, The Monster smartly keeps its teeth-snapping main attraction either on the edges of the frame or draped in shadow, distracting us instead with the sinister patter of raindrops on the windshield, or the glow of a flashlight beam...  Not least of the surprises here is that even when The Monster is trying to scare you witless, its every scene insistently reaffirms its characters’ humanity."[20]

Brian Tallerico of praised the creature effects, likening to those in Alien, as well as Kazan's performance, which he wrote "captures the truth of the moment in which Kathy struggles. Kazan doesn’t play the symbolism of the piece. She plays a mother fighting for the life of her child and herself. It’s a committed, fearless performance in how it never betrays the reality of her dilemma. It’s not a typical performance from Kazan, but it’s a great one."[21] The Hollywood Reporter's Justin Lowe wrote that the film "reduces primal fear to its fundamental elements," praising cinematographer Julie Kirkwood’s "ominously prowling camera and sometimes deliberately murky lighting consistently amplify tension by obscuring the threat lurking just beyond the frame."[22] Dennis Harvey of Variety commended the film's establishment of characters and its "conceptual simplicity...  sharply assembled in all departments, wringing the maximum suspense and variety out of what might have easily become a claustrophobically monotonous handful of outdoor and car-interior locations."[23]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 24, 2017.[24]


  1. ^ Foutch, Haileigh (March 31, 2017). "Bryan Bertino on 'The Blackcoat's Daughter', 'The Strangers 2', and The Evolving Economics of Horror". Collider. Archived from the original on August 7, 2019.
  2. ^ "The Monster". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Miska, Brad (August 3, 2016). "'The Strangers' Director's 'There Are Monsters' Dated Under New Title, 'The Monster'". Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  4. ^ Kemp, Stuart (May 9, 2014). "Cannes: 'Mad Men's' Elisabeth Moss Signs on to 'There Are Monsters'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  5. ^ Wixson, Heather (March 30, 2017). "Interview: Bryan Bertino on THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER, THE MONSTER, and THE STRANGERS". Daily Dead. Archived from the original on August 7, 2019.
  6. ^ a b McNary, Dave (May 12, 2015). "Cannes: A24 Buys Zoe Kazan's 'There Are Monsters' for U.S." Variety. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Hutchinson, Sean (November 10, 2016). "Zoe Kazan Savored Her Worst Day Ever". Inverse. Archived from the original on August 7, 2019.
  8. ^ Jayne Issac, Paulina; Ford, Rebecca (August 18, 2015). "Scott Speedman, Aaron Douglas Join Bryan Bertino's 'There Are Monsters' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  9. ^ "On the Set for 8/28/15: Keegan-Michael Key Starts on 'Don't Think Twice', Liam Hemsworth Wraps 'Independence Day Resurgence'". SSN Insider. August 28, 2015. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  10. ^ Kay, Jermey (May 12, 2015). "A24 acquires US on 'Remember', 'There Are Monsters'". Screen Daily. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  11. ^ Miska, Brad (April 22, 2016). "First Look at 'There Are Monsters,' From the Director of 'The Strangers'!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  12. ^ Miska, Brad (September 14, 2016). "New Shots From Bryan Bertino's 'The Monster'". Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  13. ^ Collis, Clark (October 5, 2016). "There's a beast on the loose in exclusive poster for The Monster". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  14. ^ "The Monster". Beyond Fest. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  15. ^ "The Monster". Tacoma Film Festival. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  16. ^ "The Monster". Sitges Film Festival. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  17. ^ "The Monster". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  18. ^ "The Monster". Metacritic. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  19. ^ Dargis, Manohla (November 10, 2016). "Review: Watch the Road, and the Driver, Too, in 'The Monster'". The New York Times. NYTimes Co. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  20. ^ Chang, Justin (November 10, 2016). "Review: Mother-daughter drama raises goosebumps in 'The Monster'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 7, 2019.
  21. ^ Tallerico, Brian (November 10, 2016). "The Monster Movie Review". Archived from the original on February 10, 2019.
  22. ^ Lowe, Justin (November 11, 2016). "'The Monster': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on November 22, 2016.
  23. ^ Harvey, Dennis (November 11, 2016). "Film Review: 'The Monster'". Variety. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016.
  24. ^ Alexander, Chris (February 3, 2017). "The Monster Blu-ray Review". Archived from the original on August 7, 2019.

External linksEdit