An iconic monster from the golden era of horror movies is trying to revive his career and has joined the production of a modern-day slasher film, a stylish but cookie-cutter affair that’s miles away from the classic films he once starred in.
He’s fallen for the leading lady of the film, who shows him some kindness and seems to enjoy his courtly company. After a party with the cast and crew, the monster starts to believe he has a chance with the actress. But when he realizes just how the others perceive him, he reminds them just what he’s capable of.
Writer-director Bob Pipe’s horror-comedy short focuses on the personal travails of a legitimate monster who’s starring in a horror short, and while it deftly apes the atmospheric, slickly brooding look of modern horror with a sense of accomplished panache, the heart of the film is a love story that’s sweetly hopeful… until it’s not.
The film toggles from a film-within-a-film to a more naturalistic, muted romance, and each mode is visually distinctive, showcasing the versatility and excellence of the craftsmanship. Opening with a classic horror scene, it immediately grabs attention for its evocation of fear and suspense. But as the story unfolds, the love story takes over and proves even more compelling.
The monster connects both sections, playing a typical villain in the horror portion. But in actuality, he’s actually a gentle soul, with a courtly demeanor and an innate politesse that harkens back to a more genteel age. The characterization is richly developed, starting with the writing, with its excellent ear for dialogue and steady pacing that allows us to experience the build-up of rapport and connection between the monster and his leading lady. With his kindness, gentlemanly manners, intelligence and sincerity, it’s not hard to root for him to get the girl.
With such a sensitively developed romance, performances are key to developing sympathy, and actor Richard Glover’s portrayal of the monster is one of the film’s strengths. The almost old-fashioned tenor of his language rolls off his tongue easily, as do the shimmers of tender hope as he gains confidence. He also captures with subtlety how the monster has been cowed by the world, almost forgotten and discounted as time has moved forward.
Just as the films are crasser, romance and relationships are cruder. And people are meaner than ever — even to the monster, forgetting who exactly they’re talking to. But the film’s final sequence gloriously (and hilariously) reminds viewers of just why the monster is a legend — and restores him to his rightful place in both horror and the world.
Like the titular character himself, “The Monster” at first appearance seems to be straight horror, but it has an old-fashioned sense of romance, going back to the medieval sense of courtly love, where a knight pays homage to an idealized woman. Setting the knight as a beast or a monster also harkens back to romances like “Cyrano de Bergerac,” helping us see the heart behind the distorted appearance. But in the end, “The Monster” is also a satisfying entry in the horror genre, reminding us that a monster may have intellect, kindness, civility, culture and sensitivity, but he still has the powers that make him supernatural — and God help us if we forget that.