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Sundance 2024 Review: YOUR MONSTER a Theatrical Blend of Romance and Horror

A woman stares longingly into the eyes of a monster
Image courtesy of IMDB

By Dolores Quintana

YOUR MONSTER is a delightful romantic horror/comedy that dishes about acting and musical theatre. The film is directed by Caroline Lindy and stars Melissa Barrera ("Laura Franco"), Tommy Dewey ("Monster"), Edmund Donovan ("Jacob"), Meghann Fahy ("Jackie"), and Kayla Foster ("Mazie"). Lindy has expanded upon the short film of the same name, released in 2019. 

The film’s synopsis goes a little like this: “After her life falls apart, soft-spoken actress Laura Franco finds her voice again when she meets a terrifying yet weirdly charming Monster living in her closet—a fantastical and dark romantic comedy about falling in love with your inner rage.”

A specific theme that I noticed while watching several films at the festival, especially within the Midnight category, were films that were about women finding the strength, courage, and anger within themselves to fight against men and a society that doesn’t take them seriously. YOUR MONSTER is squarely within that theme.

The film showcases Barrera’s talent, especially her talent as a musical theatre actor and her ability as a singer. It shows off a different side of her as an actor. Her work as Samantha Carpenter in Scream (2022) and Scream VI was so strong and made such a splash that you might think of Barrera playing someone who is much meeker as being unlikely. But she has wisely chosen a role to show off different sides of what she is capable of, possibly to avoid being stereotyped as an iconic final girl, and she does an excellent job. Her Laura Franco is sweet, endearing, and relatable but also has a fire inside. 

YOUR MONSTER is an insider's look at musical theatre and Broadway and examines the tendency that some writers and directors have to form romantic partnerships with actors only to ditch them when it becomes convenient or more beneficial from a career standpoint. It also takes a look at men who claim to be feminists but who are just as exploitative as misogynists. The ones who take advantage of trusting women who believe in them and take care of them, only to find out that they never cared. 

Most people will point to Beauty and the Beast as a possible touchstone for this film but I believe that it has a lot in common with the 1991 film Drop Dead Fred, where a gentle Phoebe Cates has an invisible friend, Fred (Rik Mayall) who rallies to her side when her husband callously dumps her. Both films showcase the plight of a woman who has done everything that her male partner demands but has never been given any respect. 

The chemistry between Dewey and Barrera works wonderfully, and though their road to becoming friends takes a little while it's worthwhile. What other reviewers seem to have missed about this film is the dual meaning of the title. Dewey’s Monster is a monster, but he’s not the only one. Two other monsters are lurking in Laura’s life, and because she was duped into giving up her strength because of her desperate desire to be loved, a fate that frequently happens to women, she has to find a way to get who she is back. 

We don’t get to see the process by which Laura was gaslit and brainwashed into losing faith in who she is as a person, but we do get to see the aftermath. The film shows, in a comedic way, what happens when that person who convinced you that you were nothing without them suddenly throws you out, which is classic romcom plotting. It is similar to the real-life situation that Ariana Madix found herself in on "Vanderpump Rules," so it’s not like this doesn’t happen in real life. The film may make some men feel guilty about their behavior but is a strong warning to not give up too much of yourself in a relationship. 

Another “inside baseball” aspect of the story is the tendency of people who cast shows, films, and theater to rely on fame rather than talent as they put projects together. It shows that if you don’t have a name, people frequently won’t consider someone’s great talent even though they know how talented they are. Casting is frequently more of a consideration of name recognition rather than ability. 

The film has a dark-hued palette in its cinematography, but not too dark. It’s very New York, even though it was filmed in Hoboken, New Jersey, and rich in character. It’s got the feel of the theatre. Lindy’s screenwriting and direction are sensitive but funny. It’s got the romcom magic with the horror edge. It’s got light gore, and at least one throat gets ripped out.

Tommy Dewey fills the character of The Monster with humor and dangerous grumpiness. You can believe in his temper, but there’s a sense of goodness within, too. He is a monster, but he’s not untrustworthy, unlike some of the humans in the story. Edmund Donovan plays Jacob very well. He’s just sincere and vulnerable enough to believe that he could have fooled Laura, who was looking at him with love goggles on, but slowly reveals Jacob’s selfishness and arrogance. Meghan Fahey is every star actress who has charisma and means well but doesn’t understand the craft. Kayla Foster has the winning role of Maizie, that outspoken best friend who is the favorite in romcom casts.

YOUR MONSTER is the story of an actress who is too nice for her own good but finds her strength through friendship. Hilarious and charming, this Beauty and the Beast of Broadway rips the heart out of bad relationships


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