MONSTROUS ** USA 2020 Dir: Bruce Wemple. 86 mins
Despite the impressive, looming Sasquatch of this film’s poster – and a 2017-set prologue featuring an unambiguous assault on two female motorists – the “monstrous” in Bruce Wemple’s indie drama turns out to be something quite different. Written by its star, Anna Shields, if follows her character’s mission to locate her missing best friend in the Adirondack Mountains, NY. Sylvia (Shields) is stuck in a dull relationship with an underwritten sub-Fox Mulder character played by Grant Schumacher (complete with “I Want to Believe” poster) but together they fix up a road trip with a seemingly hot lead, the mysterious Alex (Rachel Finninger). Via the “Bigfoot Capital” of Whitehall, where sightings and rumours of the creature (and its offspring) abound, the two women set off to solve the mystery.
Mostly a two-hander, MONSTROUS captures some chemistry and credible intimacy between the two female leads as they hole up in a remote house with a frequency system designed to keep Sasquatch at bay. There’s some (rare) humour in the vision of Whitehall as a tourist trap cashing in on the phenomenon with aggressively marketed souvenirs and Bigfoot-themed accommodation, but the core of the plot is the gradual unveiling of the secrets harboured by the recently united protagonists.
The results are, unfortunately, more ponderous than absorbing. Shields captures her character’s insecurity and pent-up guilt, but the emotional and physical scars she carries from a childhood tragedy are the stuff of cliché. The revelation of Finninger’s true nature, via some groan-inducing found video footage, takes us into far less compelling – and oddly dated – territory that renders Bigfoot incidental and unravels a positive, growing union between two lonely young women.
Veering between cryptozoological monster movie, character piece and psycho thriller, it falls between all three stools despite the fine leading performances and atmospheric backdrop. Colin Minihan’s excellent WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE covered not dissimilar territory with much more wit and suspense.
Review by Steven West