MONOLITH is a Masterclass in No Budget Horror

Something is going on down under. Almost a year ago, I caught Talk to Me, an Australian low-fi horror movie at Sundance which haunted me for the rest of the year. Nearly a year later, I’ve come upon another Aussie low-budget horror film that I can’t stop recommending to every genre fan I know. 

Note: This will be a spoiler free take. 

Monolith is an extremely impressive moody lo-fi sci-fi chamber piece that is chilling as it is compelling. The Aussie film that won over SXSW and opens in theaters TODAY, February 16, will no doubt go on to ascend to horror cult film status. The film itself is the story of a disgraced female journalist (Lily Sullivan) who after a recent controversy involving an unconfirmed source on a piece, is put out to pasture doing a podcast about unexplained phenomena. The problem is, the story she uncovers and begins to tell, about these mysterious black bricks to come into people’s lives, leads her down a rather unexpected rabbit hole, as all the best investigative podcasts and documentaries tend to do. 

The script in Monolith is a masterclass in low budget filmmaking. The film takes place in a single location, with only one actor on screen for 99.9% of the film and is still able to feel so much larger. This is not only thanks to Lily Sullivan’s damn near impeccable performance, but Lucy Campbell’s perfect script and director Matt Vesely, who shows an amazingly daft hand at utilizing every tool in a very limited tool belt from sound to cinematography to craft this haunting vision. It’s the kind of debut that shows what is truly possible with an airtight script, an actor that is truly up to the task and a director who understands the assignment. Lily Sullivan covers an impressive amount of ground emotionally with this character, that honestly really floored me with the depths this film explores. 

While pretty early on it’s easy to recognize these bricks as some sort of bizarre manifestations of guilt for those that receive them. It’s how the narrative harnesses that foundational theme and then leverages it to fuel some impressive swings at wealthy entitlement of all things, that somehow manage to meet audience expectations in their third act payoffs. Like all great rabbit holes, about half way through Monolith, it upends itself and you’re then left attempting to find your footing again after having the rug pulled out from under you. It’s a wild ride that I can’t recommend enough, it perfectly captures the vibe of a good true crime doc and throws in a sci-fi horror twist that will no doubt keep you up at night. Simply put, catch it before some other enthusiastic fan spoils it for you!

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