If you follow this site regularly (and it goes without saying that I hope you do), then you may recall that I reviewed director F. C. Rabbath’s 2015 supernatural shocker Watch Over Us back in March of this year. If you did happen to read that review, then you may also recall that I was far from kind in my critique of that film. Sooo far from kind. If you don’t recall that review or if you happened to miss it, you can just click on the title in the first sentence in order to open it up and get yourself up to speed before I start this review.
Despite my fairly negative comments, I was contacted by Mr. Rabbath not too long after the review posted. While he could, and arguably should, have told me to go fuck myself (which has happened for reviews that I gave considerably more positive reviews to), he instead did the unexpected: he informed me of a newer film that he had made and even asked if I would be willing to give it a watch. I respect your determination, Mr. Rabbath.
The following is the review of that film, A Brilliant Monster.
A Brilliant Monster tells the story of Mitch Stockridge (Dennis Friebe, who coincidentally has portrayed a killer previously on an episode of On The Case with Paula Zahn), a hugely successful and well-respected author of numerous best-selling self-help books. However, just like any other path to success, the road that lead Mitch to where he is today was paved with blood, sweat, tears, and sorrow. Sure, it’s mostly blood and sorrow, but don’t feel too bad for Mitch. He’s rich, highly respected, intelligent, and (apparently) quite successful with the ladies to boot. Well, at least somewhat successful with the ladies. And besides, I never said it was HIS blood.
You see, Mitch is also a serial killer. Well, kinda. While it’s somewhat arguable that Mitch isn’t the one killing people, the blood is undoubtedly on his hands alone. As if proof were needed to verify this fact, the film opens with Mitch ditching a victim’s truck at a construction site. He cleans the truck to remove any forensic evidence before being escorted from the scene by his mute chauffeur. This will be the only time that I mention this supporting character as he is seemingly forgotten about for the remainder of the film.
When not helping people try to fix their lives or leading others to their death, Mitch lives in a nice two-story home with his aging father. While this may appear to some to be nothing more than a dutiful son taking care of his ailing parent, Mitch more than resents his father. However, as Dad has spent Mitch’s entire life crapping on every single thing his son has ever achieved, Mitch’s bitterness and anger towards his father is more than understandable.
What might be a little less understandable is the ravenous monster living in the other upstairs bedroom. A manifestation of all of Mitch’s years of repressed anger, he is forced to feed it people in exchange for all the brilliant ideas found in the pages of all those best-selling books. Naturally, Mitch tries to keep those he cares about far away from both bedrooms.
Mitch’s monster is first brought to light when an ex-girlfriend reveals to detectives what she’s seen, what Mitch has shown her himself. As expected, her story of a well-respected self-help guru feeding people to a monster is quickly discredited by the older detective. However, the younger female detective (Joy Kigin, Nickelodeon’s I Am Frankie) seems more than eager to assist in exposing the author’s dark side. As a growing number of people associated with Mitch have recently gone missing, she believes there may be some truth to the claim, even if she believes the truth is something much closer to “normal” reality than a “man-eating monster”.
Now, I must admit something here. As most of the scenes featuring the monster are shot from the perspective of the creature’s mouth, keeping its appearance a mystery until late in the film, and as most of the room it resides in is never shown, I kinda assumed that we were in a bathroom…. and that this was a toilet monster.
My immediate reaction was “Oh, crap! What had I found my way into”? I mean, sure… a toilet monster works as a metaphor for Mitch essentially being a crap writer without the monster’s guidance, or that his whole smug attitude and demeanor about his success shows just how deluded and full of shit he actually is. Alas, the creature is not a toilet monster, but I had already spent so much of the film’s runtime deluding myself that it was one that the late reveal of the monster’s true appearance felt like a miscue. There’s nothing wrong with the monster that is presented. It’s just not a toilet, and that makes me sad.
Despite the creature’s presence, A Brilliant Monster is much more of a character study than a full-fledged monster movie. In fact, as the monster is a representation (albeit a physically tangible one) of Mitch’s pent-up frustrations and resentments, even that facet of the film is just another reflection of who “Mitch” really is. Mitch may not be happy with the choices he makes when it comes to feeding the beast, but he has no resentment towards the accolades it brings him. Sure, he tends to tell people about the monster in the most inappropriate of public settings, but who is really going to believe him? All these genius types tend to be a little strange, don’t they?
While A Brilliant Monster features a unique premise, developed characters, and solid performances throughout, the film still seems like a tough recommendation to horror fans as the monster elements are almost secondary to the long look taken at a person struggling with their own inner demons (and outer demons as well). The true horror may come in how Mitch treats others, both strangers and those closest to him, and less on what is left of them after they meet Mitch’s monster. As there is absolutely no gore in the film, gorehounds will probably be disappointed in that aspect as well.
Fans of crime dramas and police procedural shows may be a touch disappointed as well, not so much in the presence of the aforementioned monster, but in the monumental amounts of evidence linking Mitch to these crimes that the film’s detectives tend to overlook. For example, if a suspect in the recent disappearance of prostitutes is busted for soliciting a prostitute, you tend to explore that avenue a little harder and not turn a blind eye because of the suspect’s fame or notoriety. While these examples are not detrimental to the plot, they eventually begin to feel more far-fetched than the monster!
A Brilliant Monster is by no means a “bad” film. In fact, I found it quite intriguing. The film is definitely worth checking out, but still comes off as a hard one to recommend to the most blood-thirsty of horror fans. Loosely Recommended.
A Brilliant Monster is available on DVD and Blu-ray via Amazon, as well as on Amazon Prime Video. Click Here.