The slow but ceaseless decay of one’s sanity is a common source of horror in film. Questioning reality, seeing things others don’t, feeling your grasp on the world slipping away; all are terrifying things, even without a lurking shadow creature. In Mike Taylor’s There is a Monster, this idea is used effectively (albeit clumsily) to push the viewer to an incredible, dark resolution.
There Is A Monster is the story of Jack, a successful photographer who begins to see a shadowy presence more and more in his everyday life. It stalks him while running; it lurks around his property; it haunts his hallways, rooms and workplace, taunting him and driving him closer and closer to insanity. Of course, no one else can see this figure, making him even more enraged. Once the figure escalates to physically attacking Jack, the film quickly escalates into a surreal nightmare.
On paper, this is an excellent story. The film is a clear allegory for degenerative illness, with an ending that drives that point home in a tremendously upsetting way. However, in execution, it often comes off as rather clumsy. The acting leaves something to be desired, robbing dramatic moments of an impact that more skillful performers might highlight. Some of the dialogue is trite and cliched, seemingly there as an attempt at humanizing characters and fleshing them out, but done so heavy-handedly that the seams are quite clear. Transitions between scenes are abrupt and jagged, and the flow of the film is often clunky.
That being said, the stumbling narrative arrives in a very dark place that the film actually pulls off. All cards on the table, I spent much of this movie sighing in exasperation with how short it fell of its potential. But the ending, the actual last frame of the film, is haunting. I remember as a child being rattled by the video for Metallica’s “One,” with the lingering shot of a quadruple amputee lying in bed, mangled face covered by a cotton mask, drifting further and further into their own inner abyss, pleading through Morse code with the nurse for a quick death. This film affected me in a similar way, showing a man looking down the barrel of a lifetime of isolation, loneliness and mental anguish. This, and not the shadowy monster, is the true source of horror in the film, something that hits so hard it resonates despite a largely mediocre rest of the film.