Every year, there are those films that seemingly go undiscovered.
I wish I could understand why. They are good films. They are meaningful films. They are films that audiences would love and critics would even likely embrace, though one never quite knows with the critics.
Monster in a House, a 14-minute short film written and directed by Christiano Dias, is such a film. A one-shot take film, Monster in a House is so beautifully constructed, so honestly written, and so marvelously acted that it's almost unimaginable that it is not among this year's Oscar nominees. In fact, I found myself so surprised by this fact that I double-checked the list, and the shortlist, before even starting this review.
Yes, it truly is that good.
Monster in a House follows 9-year-old Miah's (Kitana Turnbull) imaginative fever dream, as she tries to destroy the monster that her parents, played by Joseph Bottoms and Lisa Roumain, unknowingly created.
It is difficult to describe Monster in a House without giving away the experience of the film. While the way the film plays out isn't necessarily a surprise, it is so magnificently played out and so immersive in its experience that one really doesn't have the chance to start thinking ahead.
Newcomer Kitana Turnbull is a young actress to watch. She exudes an almost heartbreaking vulnerability as Miah, embodying this young girl being enveloped by this monster that has been created. If you watch her face and you watch her body language, you will be simply mesmerized.
While Joseph Bottoms isn't a newcomer, think the Bottoms family of actors, he's perfectly cast as the father who is initially more absorbed in his own world than that of his little girl yet who becomes her fierce, one could say guttural, protector. It's a simple yet beautiful performance that reminds you just how good Joseph Bottoms is and always has been. While she's given less to do, Lisa Roumain also excels as the mother.
Michael Helenek's lensing is simply stellar, utilizing a perfect use of shadowing and framing and giving the film an emotional depth by following the faces of the characters involved. Jack Days edits the film to perfection, while Jeremy Pelsinksi's production design evokes memories of early Spielberg's weaving together of childhood, innocence, and the monsters both real and imaginary.
Of course, none of this would really matter one iota without the excellent script and direction from Dias, who has managed to capture a film that possesses richness of character, a believable and full story within the span of a mere 14 minutes, and a world in which one becomes fully immersed. It's a magnificent directorial effort and Dias is most certainly someone to watch in the future.
For more information on the film, visit the film's website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic