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Your Monster Film Review: Monster Meets Girl

A woman with heavy makeup and a man dressed as a beast with a beard dance in the film Your Monster

Melissa Barrera and Tommy Dewey star in Your Monster, a rom-com horror musical that juggles a lot of elements – and almost pulls it off.

Director: Caroline Lindy
Genre: Horror, Rom-Com, Musical
Run Time: 102′
Sundance Screening: June 7, 2024
Release Date: TBA

You know how the story goes: monster meets girl, monster and girl butt heads, monster and girl eventually fall in love. That is not the plot behind most romantic comedies, but it is for Your Monster, the debut feature from writer-producer-director Caroline Lindy.

Based on the 2020 short of the same name (and Lindy’s own experiences), it is a monster revenge cringe rom-com horror musical that also satirises musical theatre productions. As this mix of genres and themes suggests, the film is juggling a lot. And yet, to its credit, it almost pulls off some of its more out-there elements. Almost.

When we first meet aspiring actress Laura Franco (Melissa Barrera, of In The Heights), her life has practically collapsed. She has just been released from hospital, having undergone surgery for cancer. She was dumped by her composer boyfriend Jacob (a sufficiently scummy Edmund Donovan, of Civil War) during her recovery. And now she is having to live in her absent mother’s apartment. At least she has the support of her best friend Mazie (Kayla Foster, of Call Jane), who is her ride-or-die (part of the time, when she isn’t needing to head off to an audition). Suddenly, one night, Laura hears some strange noises upstairs. When she investigates, she finds a monster in her closet. Specifically, the monster from her childhood (Tommy Dewey, of Wyrm).

Now accustomed to living alone in the house, this grumpy beast initially gives Laura two weeks to move out. However, he soon turns out to be surprisingly nice and encouraging to her. Meanwhile, Laura’s Broadway dream is reignited when she hears auditions are underway for Jacob’s new musical, “House of Good Women.” It was a show she helped to develop once upon a time, with Jacob offering her the lead role. But now she has to invite herself to these auditions before being cast as the understudy to the more famous Jackie Dennon (Meghann Fahy, of The White Lotus). Monster will help Laura come out of her shell – and they will find something in one another along the way.

Feeling at times like a modern adaptation of fairytales like Beauty and the Beast (Monster does look quite similar to the Beast), the briskly edited Your Monster heavily leans into the traits of its many genres. It has the thunderstorms, flickering lights, and jump scares from a typical horror movie. But it is also very romanticised, particularly with how it sounds. The melodramatic score by Tim Williams (Pearl) is accompanied by a variety of ‘50s and ‘60s oldies and show tunes (from original songs by Daniel and Patrick Lazour to the ironic use of Bye Bye Birdie’s ‘Put On a Happy Face’ right at the start).

A girl a boy dressed as a beast look at each other in the film Your Monster
Your Monster (WME Independent / 2024 Sundance Film Festival London)

The film is more than a little obvious. Considering the mix of genres on display, Lindy’s script could have been more daring or, at least, leaned less into horror. It would have been way more subversive as a straight rom-com because, perhaps weirdly in a film centred on a big and scary monster, that element is where Your Monster is most successful. That is all down to Barrera and Dewey, both great together as opposites who attract and slowly become each other. The multi-talented Barrera’s Laura is meek, self-doubting and a little clumsy, but finds her strength through her repressed anger.

Conversely, Dewey’s Monster is amusingly matter-of-fact and gets emotional when watching Laura’s favourite movie, Stanley Donen and Fred Astaire’s Royal Wedding. The pair work so well together that when the story goes through the big conventional rom-com breakup, you don’t want it to happen. However, that is also because Laura becomes impulsive in a way that doesn’t gel with the rest of the story.

In the end, Your Monster is a film that takes massive swings. Some of them work, some of them don’t. The most obvious example of the latter is the ending, which seems to be building up to something before a bafflingly sudden cut-off (complete with an out-of-place end credits song). Yet even if this is a film that doesn’t stick the landing, it is still appealing thanks to Barrera and Dewey’s chemistry.

Your Monster was screened at the Sundance Film Festival London, taking place on 6-9 June, 2024 at the Picturehouse Central in London. Read all of our Sundance reviews!

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