Directed by F.C. Rabbath
Starring Dennis Friebe, Joy Kigin, David Raizor and Nick Leali
Indie Film Review by Annie Vincent
A compelling psychological exploration of fear and ego merged with a comic-horror metaphor, A Brilliant Monster is both engaging and farcical.
This feature length indie film follows Mitch Stockbridge, an emerging author of self-help books who is on the brink of ‘making it big’. Whilst he has been writing for a while, recently his work has begun to turn heads and everyone marvels at his ability to generate such ‘original’ ideas. However, it’s not all plain-sailing for Mitch. His next novel is due to be ‘the one’ but he can’t write it – he needs to rely on his muse, his source, for original ideas. Mitch admits the ‘never-ending flow of anger’ he has supplies some great storylines, but no one can quite comprehend the manifestation of this rage, including, I fear, the film’s audience.
Dennis Friebe’s performance as Mitch is excellent. He has the perfect face to pull off dark, sexy, yet dangerous psychopath. His facial expressions are well measured and timed, his pausing throughout the script often leaves you on edge and the development of the character through the film, with his true nature being revealed little by little, is absorbing. David Raizor also delivers a great performance playing Mitch’s Dad, a man so unlikeable that the audience actually feels sympathy for his heinous son. Rabbath’s script is to be highly commended in this area as an exasperating, daily ego-wrestle plays out between these two men, until Mitch’s father becomes so ill, edges so close to death, he congratulates his son and reminds him that he shouldn’t have wasted his life trying to please him.
Some of the camerawork is thoughtful, with the shadow shots of Mitch replacing the childhood bully who tormented him, a hugely powerful moment. But the low shots with frames of teeth and drool, supported by weak groans and snarls completely cuts against this captivating psychological narrative. Maybe that was the point; maybe this film didn’t want to take itself too seriously and preferred to bare the hallmarks of the dark or comedy horror genre. But the real horror would have shone through without the monster.
A Brilliant Monster is a highly complex and compelling examination of family relationships, the psychologically of childhood and how this shapes adults. The themes and ideas are frightening but also frighteningly close. We can all imagine how the death of a young boy’s mother, a toxic relationship with his father and relentless bullying at school can shape a psychopath, and the film delivers this wonderfully. The film also offers a cynical, yet believable, critique of the authorial process, casting a shadow over creative industries that thrive on the concept of ‘original’ ideas, with authors powerless against publishers until the ‘fickle’ mob of readers gives its seal of approval.
But the on-screen monster is incongruous with the script and what appears to be the film’s overriding intention. The snuffling, drooling creature in the back bedroom is not the ‘original’ metaphor needed to illustrate these important and weighty concepts.