Monster Movie Review // Reverse Uno Card

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An Indonesian remake of an American horror thriller? The trailer for Monster immediately piqued my interest thanks to its unconventional switcheroo. Surprisingly fresh, this is one foreign film I think genre fans will be remiss to skip. 

Remakes and Reimaginings

Monster is described as the reinterpretation of the film The Boy Behind the Door and directed by Rako Prijanto. Grade school friends, Alana and Rabin, are playing in an arcade after school when the boy catches the eye of a shady looking man named Jack. Out of her sight for a brief moment, Alana finds that he’s been taken and thrown in the trunk of this predator. Unable to escape the scene she’s come across, she is taken along with her friend. 

This isn’t the first remake and it won’t be the last. I recently reviewed Strangers: Chapter 1 which takes a stab at reimagining the steely thriller, The Strangers. Speak No Evil, starring James McAvoy hits theaters this September. Capturing even the slightest amount of the original Danish film’s dread and tension would be a success. But where some may falter, is that a quality reimagining needs more than just shock value.

Why You Should Hit Play

Most remakes are American made for English speaking audiences. Unfortunately, I have usually leaned into disliking most. Even the best lack the magic of its predecessor. I don’t want a more palatable version of something that gave me nightmares. Well, chills at least. Furthermore, subtitles seem to be a red flag for a lot of moviegoers who would rather not read long lines of scrolling text while attempting to keep up with any action or drama unfolding before them. An Indonesian horror thriller is going to need more than just turning up the tension to pull us in.

First of all, if subtitles are a deterrent, no worries here. Monster is almost completely without dialogue, aside from characters’ names being spoken aloud a few times. This film relies heavily on the characters actions and emotions. And lead, Anantya Kirana (Alana) is remarkable. The music helps, it’s exciting at times and playful the next. Moreover, we’re spared from some of the more horrifying sounds by strategic sound design.


Before I move on any further, I must include a strong content warning for child sexual abuse and sex trafficking. From the moment we hear Rabin kicking and screaming in the trunk of a car, we know these children are in serious danger. Rabin is unloaded and shackled in a room with a dirty mattress on the floor. Alana is left in the trunk and manages to free herself, only to realize that her friend needs immediate help. She doesn’t know where they are and finds unspeakable horrors waiting inside when she decides to rescue her friend. However, I expected something more gruesome. Perhaps it’s a plus that the scenes were handled more delicately. 

Honestly, I tend to avoid thrillers with real-world evils but I found this to be arresting. It makes perfect sense when a child isn’t making the same decisions that you might. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart or capable. I wanted Alana to free her friend. I was scared for them. It’s easy to immerse yourself in what’s unraveling and the runtime is sweet, at just 86 minutes. Ultimately, the tension seems to slow down by the end and lacks the excitement of a strong finish. I felt there could have been more. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the retelling of this story from a different perspective. Monster is now streaming on Netflix.