There Is a Monster is the story of Jack, a photographer who is hoping for his big break while dealing with a crumbling marriage. As things begin to turn around for him personally and professionally, Jack begins seeing a monster. While it starts as something hiding in the shadows, eventually the monster begins to physically attack Jack. The problem is that no one else can see it and the doctors all think it is just in his head.Buy or rent There Is a Monster
The film is written, produced, and directed by Mike Taylor, who was inspired by his sister’s battle with a crippling disease which, while not explicitly stated, I gather from the end credits of the film is ALS. And while it is clear to see how deeply Taylor was affected by his sister’s struggle, this allegory falls short for the story Taylor was trying to tell.
The first challenge I had with There Is a Monster is that the plot itself is too busy. There are too many points of conflict that detract from the main conflict of Jack being terrorized mentally and physically by a monster that no one else can see. That is enough without a crumbling marriage, a struggling career, and the temptation of a young female employee who wants a more than professional relationship. If Taylor had gone deeper in on the idea of the monster and built the conflict solely around that, I believe the story would have been much stronger.
Then there are the very gendered ideas about men and women throughout the film. For example, Carol, Jack’s wife, confides in a friend about Jack seeing the monster and how she wants him to get help. Her friend shares with Carol that she traded her husband a threesome in exchange for him going to a psychiatrist. They then laugh together over the line, “The things we do for our men.”
Meanwhile, Jack is portrayed as a “typical” man who resists going to the doctor for his symptoms. Then he begrudgingly goes to see a therapist but refuses to really say much. Outside of these outdated views being toxic and reinforcing stereotypes about men and women, they also distract from the main plot of the story and don’t move it forward.
And while Jack might not want to go to the doctor, the action or lack of action of the doctor makes no sense. When Jack is clearly exhibiting what could be neurological issues and also sharing other symptoms that could be signs of a heart attack and/or stroke, the doctor just wants to keep an eye on it and does not order an immediate battery of tests. It’s not until the end of the film that there is even a mention of a doctor ordering tests. It’s an unbelievable plot point, that if it had been done well, could have been used to demonstrate the frustrations the chronically ill face in getting answers.
I was really excited to watch There Is a Monster after reading the press release, but unfortunately Taylor’s project of labor and love was a miss for me.
There Is a Monster has a runtime of 82 minutes and is not rated. It is currently available on digital platforms.