A Brilliant Monster

Mitch (Dennis Friebe) is a successful self-help book author, who is working on his first novel. Fans, journalists, even his publicist (Susan Morgan) regularly ask how he comes up with such original ideas and unique perspectives on themes; a question he mostly avoids answering. That is because he doesn’t write them; living on his bathroom floor is a monster Mitch feeds live human victims in exchange for fully finished chapters of each book. But the more successful Mitch becomes, and the happier it makes him, the smaller, less productive the monster becomes. This leads Mitch to take drastic measures and start feeding the creature, dear and close friends.

The fact that so many people around him seem to disappear leads to a police investigation, with detective Abby (Joy Kigin) leading the charge. Is her vendetta against Mitch’s work clouding her judgment? Is the monster real or just a figment of Mitch’s angry, shattered psyche?

“…sequences spring to life thanks to the vivid and intense directing.”

Have you ever watched a film that is well acted and crafted with style, yet you can’t get into it? Director F.C. Rabbath’s parable horror movie, A Brilliant Monster, is one such movie for me. The ideas at play here are intriguing, bolstered by solid acting, but those elements fail to cohere into a satisfying whole.

The biggest criminal here is the script, written by Rabbath and Adam Bertocci. It is not just that Mitch is one of the most unlikable protagonists in recent memory, it’s that, once all is said and done, none of his nastiness amounts to much. Now, there is nothing wrong with a movie centering on total selfish individuals, such as the sublime Rules Of Attraction, when there is a direct theme or purpose for it. However, Rabbath and Bertocci’s big, shocking reveal of the human condition is underwhelming: sometimes things piss us off, we get angry about it, and occasionally that anger stays with us. That is all the movie has to say, and it even screws that up with the monster at the end. Without spoiling anything, the film heavily implies that only one person can be angry at a time.

One of the issues with the ending is that Mitch’s anger, as written, not as portrayed by the actor, comes off as unwarranted- he was bullied in school, and his dad doesn’t understand or support him. Abby’s anger is also perplexing. If her husband left because of a self-help book he read, then they were clearly not in a good place to start. Unfortunately, the lack of authenticity to these issues is what keeps the movie from engaging the audience beyond the superficial veneer of its excellent technical prowess.

Those technical skills impress quite a bit, as certain scenes and sequences spring to life thanks to the vivid and intense directing. The editing is sublime, deftly moving from one harrowing victim feeding sequence to a more lighthearted conversation between Mitch and his best friend, John (Bill Kelly). That sort of tonal shift is challenging to get right, but this movie gets several of those pitch perfect. Plus, Valentin Boomes score is electrifying and haunting as it elevates every scene with heightened emotion.

“It believes itself to be profound, but it had nothing at all to say.”

The acting is equally remarkable. Despite how the character is written, Friebe brings a freewheeling charm and imbues Mitch with a gravitas that gives substantial weight to his actions. Kigin is excellent as the gruff but open-minded cop, allowing for a poorly contrived grievance to feel personal. Bill Kelly is saddled with the funny best friend role, but he pulls it off with panache and bounces off Friebe quite nicely. Susan Morgan as the publicist is tremendous fun, the glee in her voice when discussing how Mitch put the firm on the map is infectious, versus the disdain she has for him after his first failure. Every emotional turn from her was entirely believable. Given its independent roots as a crowdfunded project on Indiegogo, there is quite the robust cast, and this review would surely go over the word count if it were to list and praise all of them individually. As such, let it be known that every actor and actress not specifically named does an admirable job.

There is certainly a lot to admire in A Brilliant Monster, with its stellar cast and stirring directing. But the rich visuals don’t overcome the story’s shortcomings, with the film being rendered confusing and pointless at the end. It believes itself to be profound, but it had nothing at all to say.

A Brilliant Monster (2018) Directed by F.C. Rabbath. Written by F.C. Rabbath, Adam Bertocci. Starring Dennis Friebe, Bill Kelly, Joy Kigin, Sarah Alexandria, Alea Figueroa, Susan Morgan.

Grade: C+

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