The spirits of John Cassavetes, Jim Jarmusch, Barbara Hammer, Nicolas Roeg, and Bernardo Bertolucci permeate Ryan Lonergan’s sophomore feature Kill the Monsters. The film’s central themes, coupled with its experimental nature and go-for-broke aesthetic, make it worthy of such lofty comparisons. Lonergan may not have yet reached the echelons of the masters mentioned above, with a few glaring missteps here and there, but his assured direction, writing, producing, acting, and editing reveals a profound knowledge of cinema and human psychology.
Frankie (Jack Ball) is stuck at a dead-end job. When he gets an ambiguous illness – it’s not cancer, it’s more of a “general feeling of malaise” – his two partners, Sutton (Garrett McKechnie) and Patrick (Ryan Lonergan) urge him to quit. “Patrick and I are only happy if you’re happy, and you’re not happy right now,” Sutton declares.
“…hopes that a local holistic doctor will cure Frankie’s mysterious ailment.”
Frankie expresses a desire to “go to the West.” Despite being neck-deep in debt, Sutton impulsively buys them a condo in Santa Monica. Partially this is done in hopes that a local holistic doctor will cure Frankie’s mysterious ailment. “He’s sick, and you’re using it to go on a rampage,” Patrick accuses Sutton. Frankie’s condition worsens, so the trio embark on a journey across America.
It’s not all gorgeous vistas and “basking in freedom,” though. Frankie isn’t getting any better. Sutton’s drug habit resurfaces. “I’m trying not to live on a crack farm,” a disappointed Patrick says. When our heroes finally reach their destination, a neighborly, prolonged poker game with two lesbian couples leads to intricate building politics. Frankie starts to feel physically better but turns into an “indolent” slacker. After all is said and done, the final shot somehow manages to leave things both open-ended and resolved.