Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a happy couple goes camping in the woods only to run afoul of a psychotic family out for bloodshed. In the case of No Such Thing As Monsters, the couple is Mary (Angel Giuffria) and David (Matthew Clarke). David convinces Mary, against her better judgment, to go camping in an RV to a spot his dad used to take him. After their first night there, siblings Becca (Rebecca Fortuna), Nelly (Michaela Pascoe), Amy (Georgia Crisfield Smith), and Elmer (Jacob Fyfe) show up at just the other side of the clearing where Mary and David are staying.
The family introduces themselves and explains how it might be odd that they are sharing this camping site, but it is a special place to them. Mary and David think it is no big deal and end up hanging out with the family that night, sharing booze and stories. The next day, however, Mary wakes up, unable to find David. After retreating into the RV, it drives away, but not by her or David.
Mary wakes up chained, confined to the RV. She is given some food and a few rules to follow. She longs to escape, and her growing relationship with the timid, scarred Amy may prove the key to saving herself and David. Why were Amy and David chosen to be kidnapped? What does this family of psychos want with them?
“Mary wakes up chained, confined to the RV.”
Written by Karen Elgar and Stuart Stanton, who also directs, this Australian horror flick is, by equal measures, extraordinarily frustrating and thoroughly engaging. On the positive side, the cast, shallow characters though they are playing, are all excellent. Angel Giuffria is instantly likable and sympathetic as Mary. When her migraines (?) brought on by her claustrophobia (?) hit, she believably acts disoriented and exhausted. Later on, as she tries to bond with Amy over a game of chess, her conversation about being good versus evil does not feel cliched at all.
As the authoritative, most evil family member, Nelly, Pascoe comes across as genuinely malevolent and wicked. When telling Mary she’s going to hurt David every single day, it comes across as so much more than an idle threat. Smith’s role as Amy is tricky, as she needs to be so enraptured by her family, she overlooks their misdeeds. But, she also needs to be gentle enough to feel for Mary. The actress pulls this duality off perfectly, despite not enough being made of it.
Jamie Murgatroyd’s score is also a highlight of No Such Things As Monsters. It fills every moment with a sense of dread, heightening the frightening scenario that much more. And director Stanton makes the most of the limited locations throughout, as the action is mainly confined to the RV and the psycho family’s house. While there’s very little flash to his style, he does wring tension out of several moments, even when they create plot holes or make the characters, specifically Mary, look dumb.
"…this Australian horror flick is, by equal measures, extraordinarily frustrating and thoroughly engaging."