I caught Monolith at this year’s SXSW (2023). A disgraced journalist uses her podcast to uncover the truth behind an alien conspiracy. The movie feels as if it has thoughts about privilege, lies, and possibly even extraterrestrials. It’s a beautifully shot feature that serves as a showcase for Lily Sullivan (who is about to win you all over in Evil Dead Rise). I also kept trying to lean in because, as a podcasting journalist who works from home, it seemed like relatable content.
Almost But Not Quite
As brilliant as Sullivan is, keeping a one-woman sci-fi thriller spicy for 94 minutes is hard. Watching her only interact with people via unethical audio interviews got stale very early on. I know many people who live for minimalist and restrained horror, and I think they will love this. However, I was not the audience for this and found myself frustrated that the creepy vibes would not be used to creep me out. Instead, they would be a backdrop to what is an amazing performance in a gorgeous house.
By the time Lily gets to fight someone, or something, towards the end of the movie, I had already disengaged from the mystery of the film. The director, Matt Vesely, had some very cool moments with Lucy Campbell’s script that had very cool ideas. However, this is just one of those movies for a very specific audience. If you’re into the atmosphere and hints of danger, then this is your movie. If you’re also into things that feel like they could be based on 90s internet urban legends, you might also find the foothold I couldn’t see while making my way up this mountain.
Sullivan Is The Saving Grace
The Interviewer (Sullivan) is an interesting character that gets bogged down in what feels like jumbled thoughts. I wanted to know more about her privilege which protects her from learning the lesson that led her to become a disgraced podcaster. I wanted to know how she got so far with her refusal to hold an ethical interview. I also wish we could’ve seen anyone talk to her face to face to better get a barometer of her fall from grace and why she’s putting so much energy into this mystery. I also would’ve loved more of an exploration of a person self-imprisoned in their home. There were so many cool avenues we could’ve taken, and I kept hoping we would use any of the off-ramps. Or maybe I only care because I like this actor and saw her doing everything possible with what she was given.
This feels like one of those movies I’ll be in the minority on. To which I say good for all of you that will enjoy it. Watching someone cough up a black brick doesn’t excite me, no matter what filter we use, and that’s fine. More people could stand to say something isn’t for them rather than falling onto the love or hate bandwagon with religious fervor. I’m still happy I was able to see Sullivan in two completely different movies at SXSW this year. I’m also glad that we’re getting such a catalog of indie movies that it doesn’t hurt when one fails to make me feel something. Yay, first-world problems!