Jeremy Gardner writes, co-directs, and stars in this movie about horror and romance.
Hank (Jeremy Gardner) and Abby (Brea Grant) were a couple for 10 years, before one day Abby just got up and left without much explanation. Shortly afterwards, Hank finds himself being attacked at night by a monster that attempts to get into his house. Unsurprisingly, no one around him seems to believe that monsters are real, leading him to have to deal with everything alone.
If you’re not familiar with Jeremy Gardner, well, that’s not surprising. This is only his third film as a director/writer (with Christian Stella) and the first two, Tex Montana Will Survive! and The Battery didn’t make a lot of waves, as far as I can tell. Honestly, I only watched them after watching this film, because they’re both free on Amazon Prime, but I will admit that I enjoyed them (mostly The Battery, although Tex Montana is an impressive one-man film). This movie, though, is a big step forward in filmmaking from those.
This is one of those movies that is going to be divisive, because it definitely isn’t what it seems from the beginning. While a lot of the movie is focused on Hank dealing with the monster, it’s constantly intercut with Hank thinking about his relationship with Abby, going from how they bonded to how they would argue to the day that she just disappeared. In the “present,” Hank is paranoid, worn down, and emotionally damaged from dealing with the monster. Despite him repeatedly shooting holes through his front door, he never seems to actually get a clear sight of the beast, leaving it unseen to both him and the audience. Because of this and the constant inter-spliced plotlines showing his decline, the movie always keeps the door open that the entire thing is in Hank’s head.
I’m always an advocate for using horror as a metaphor, and this movie uses its monster and horror elements fairly blatantly as a representation for relationship issues. I don’t want to give it fully away, but I will say that the ending ties the horror and personal themes together perfectly. I’ll add an Ending Explanation after the spoiler break, though, because I want to talk about it.
Garner’s performance is pretty solid, particularly given that he spends much of the movie on his own, fighting against an unseen “monster.” His performance in Tex Montana was a pretty solid indicator that he can both hold your attention during solo stretches and also that he can do slow descents into madness believably. Moreover, his scenes with Brea Grant are excellent and the two have great chemistry. Grant’s performance tells more of the story than most of the actual dialogue in the flashbacks.
Overall, I thought they did a great job with this film. It has two main flaws: it’s not really what people expect from a monster movie, and that the structure can be disorienting to the viewer. Still, I enjoyed it.
Obviously, at the end of the movie, we get the reveal that yes, the monster is real. This is after Abby comes back and explains, at length, all of the things that led to her falling for him and, ultimately, why she left. Throughout the movie, she compared his hunting to his nature with women, unable to stop looking for the next target, which he denies. He then explains some of his own flaws and fears, then, during karaoke, starts to finally show his full vulnerabilities to Abby… which is exactly when the monster attacks, just like he feared. However, ultimately, he kills the monster, then reveals that he already had a ring for Abby the whole time. While I think this part’s a little heavy-handed, it cements the monster as being a symbol for Hank’s fear of commitment. It destroyed the home he built with Abby and ultimately left him a broken, isolated, lonely human being. After he finally allows himself to be vulnerable, yes, it hurts him, but it also gives him the ability to destroy those fears and move forward with Abby. I think it’s a good use of monster, honestly.
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