The Monitor is a Norwegian Horror film written and directed by Pal Sletaune and starring Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy). The original title, Babycall, is the Norwegian/Swedish term for a baby monitor, but I actually prefer the English title as it adds some creepy subtext. “Monitor” can refer to the listening device or a person who is listening or watching over—and it’s also a verb, which implies action and movement. Can you tell I was a Literature Major back in college?
Check out my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: Anna and her eight-year-old son Anders are under the witness protection program following a difficult relationship with Anders’ father. They move into a large apartment complex. Anna becomes overprotective of her son and even buys a babycall to keep track of him. Soon, strange noises from other apartments appear on the monitor, and Anna overhears what might be the murder of a child. Meanwhile, Anders’ mysterious new friend starts visiting at odd hours, claiming that he has keys for all the doors in the building … Does this new friend know anything about the murder? And why is Anders’ drawing stained with blood? Is Anna’s son still in danger?
The Monitor is a surprisingly nuanced piece of cinema. The truth is, I was expecting a much simpler film, something along the lines of: Woman hears strange noises in her baby monitor; voices turn out to be another child in the building—or perhaps a glimpse into her own future. In actuality, The Monitor has a lot to say and is anything but straightforward. Those who like their Horror simple and bloody will likely lack the patience for this movie, but those who like drama and subtext along with their creepy-crawlies are in for a treat.
Some of the most intriguing aspect of The Monitor have nothing to do with murder or haunting voices. For starters, Anna is a fascinating character study. She’s (understandably) extremely paranoid, skittish, and untrusting. But is she trapped by her fear or wallowing in it? Is forcing her son to sleep in her bed a form or protection or obsession? Anders (played by Vetle Qvenild Werring who was also the young patient in the film I reviewed yesterday, Cold Prey II) is too old to be sleeping with his mother—too old, in fact, to need the constant supervision a baby monitor provides. When does protectiveness, even with the best intensions, become potentially damaging?
Anna’s relationship with Helge (Kristoffer Joner) is multi-facetted as well. His painfully shy, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly demeanor allows him to bypass her fortified emotional walls, but he is more then simply a comfort to an abused single mother. Helge shares stories of his own past, growing up with an overprotective mother. Far from disgruntled, he sees his mother’s actions as a reflection of her intense love for him. Thus, Anna feels that her intense control over her son (even attempting to remove him from public school) is justified. When we learn that Helge was the victim of childhood physical abuse, however, we realize that he is not as well-adjusted as he appears and, in this respect, his presence in Anna’s life makes him more of an enabler than an ally.
The Monitor is hardly all drama and subtext; it’s a tense and creepy film that has us vacillating between the realms of insanity and the paranormal. Like other Horror offerings out of Scandinavia (like Let The Right One In, Sauna, and Hidden), The Monitor slowly, almost innocently sneaks under our skin where it festers long after the movie has ended. It’s a challenging film at times, evoking many questions from viewers without offering concrete answers. Like a vanishing lake or a phantom illustration, some pieces of this puzzle never seem to fit neatly in place. This is not poor storytelling, in my opinion; rather, it’s openness to interpretation allows the film to have an afterlife in our own consciousness as we revisit the emotions it elicited.
For a film that starts off slow and seemingly straightforward, The Monitor packs a slew of sucker-punches. Hitting on themes from PTSD to ghostly communion, it’s a film that benefits from unexpected shifts in direction. And while I’m still struggling to completely grasp intricacies of the story-arch, I’m willing and excited to re-watch The Monitor as I delve deeper into its mysteries.
3.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|Release Date||July 24 2012|
|Starring||Noomi Rapace, Kristoffer Joner, Vetle Qvenild Werring|