While being an allegory but also trying to be comedic, Kill the Monsters is an odd, bold, and awkward tale about three young men who share a strong relationship and travel all over American searching for physical and emotional healing.
Truth be told, this is a very odd movie to even review. Kill the Monsters is oddly strange, weird, and quirky, but in an interesting way, but that’s what makes Kill the Monsters oddly entertaining. For a movie that’s barely an hour and half, Kill the Monsters is paced well in its writing and its brief story telling.
One aspect that makes this movie stand out is that the allegories it’s trying to make are parallel to American history, in particular with 1776 all the way to 2017. Lonergan is trying to tackle topics on the history of America and the history of the American political system. Now, in that regard, there’s something about this decision that comes across with some questioning. Granted, it’s a fascinating way to tell your story about three young gay men, set in modern times. However, it’s a bit difficult to interpret as to what exactly the three young men and the events that take place during the movie actually represent. While Lonergan makes it easy for the audience to follow along by providing chapter titles and years, it is a bit of an odd creative decision because it just seemed almost like a complete after thought because it never felt as cohesive or as consistent as it wanted us to believe.
The thing that Lonergan does to help make up for those question marks is that he does manage to provide strong characters who are all likable. The characters are well liked, but the script doesn’t really offer much for them to do. Half the time, they’re having arguments about something or they’re having sex (which is showcased a lot in this movie). The performances from the three are a bit stilted and they’re not as staggering as Lonergan wants us to think. It really stems all the way back to the script because the story in this movie doesn’t give them enough meat to chew on. One aspect of the relationship between the three is the character of Frankie is constantly treated like a child.
Kill the Monsters was also edited by Ryan Lonergan himself, and it’s worth noting that one of the positives of this movie is that Lonergan chooses to cut with such impatience that it makes the film more intriguing while adding to its odd, unexpected, and awkwardly brisk style. It also features very wide, long, and extended takes, whether it’s scenes from far away or especially the game of poker with the three German women they meet on their journey. The best aspect that the wide takes have for the movie is that they do allow the audience to ingest the scenery, and to actually see every detail, whether it is from a close up or from far away. The poker scene, in particular, works because you have a sense of scale of the entire room. The movie also features shots of parks from far away that actually are well composed shots because you can actually grasp the entire surroundings.
The movie being in black and white is not something that adds much as far as making the movie memorable or stand out. Kill the Monsters being in black and white is as questionable as the allegory it’s trying to make. It really doesn’t offer any artistic value, nor does it have a strong placement in this movie. It’s a very odd creative choice because it never feels like it’s capturing anything. It doesn’t contribute much and it’s nothing that reinvents the wheel. It’s trying to be this deep reflection of American history, but it just comes across as pretty flat and almost useless. That being all said, it’s not like this makes the movie worse, it just adds to its odd nature.
For a movie that’s handling serious subject matter regarding the LGTBQ community, it doesn’t do the best job of positively representing this specific culture. Sure, it may show the struggles of what the characters have to deal with, but something was missing from actually being sincere in its representation of the LGTBQ community. It never really dives deep into this aspect because it really doesn’t deal with the subject matter all that affectively. It felt all over then place, but it also seemed as if no thought went into actually showing what it’s actually like being associated with the LGTBQ community. It just focuses on three young men who just so happen to be gay and it doesn’t really go anywhere from there.
Director Ryan Lonergan really knows how to keep your attention and that really speaks volumes to how he is as a director. He’s great at setting shots and scenes, and while the way Lonergan addresses the allegories might in a confusing way, he knows how to set up a nice and well competent looking shot. As previously mentioned, this is a very well-paced movie that’s shot well and features strong and inciting characters. However, the movie suffers from jumbling with an allegory that doesn’t really know what it wants to be.
Keep in mind, Kill the Monsters is far from being an absolute train wreck. As stated earlier, Kill the Monsters has well shot scenes, good characters, it’s paced well, and it even offers a unique and interesting score, even for a movie that’s not even two hours, but the biggest detractors from the movie are how it handles the subject matter, the allegories, and it’s script. This is a movie that had all the potential because it had all the pieces to the puzzle on the table, it’s just how it was put together that didn’t work all that well.
Available on DVD and VOD February 18th, 2020.
Final Score: 2 out of 5.