Impossible Monsters is a genre-crossing movie about a psychology professor whose sleep studies trigger a twisted tale of horror and bloodshed. An interesting concept? You’d think so, but a weak script and sub-par performances prevent what could have been an interesting and unsettling thriller-horror from reaching its full potential. The film attempts to blend the mind-bending narrative approach of films like Fight Club with the eerie tension of flicks like The Shining, but fails to come close to replicating the impactful significance of either.
Admittedly, filmmaker Nathan Catucci tries his best to make the concept a success, and his directorial work is easily the highlight of the movie. Catucci demonstrates some sophisticated and stylish camerawork, and certain shots would certainly not feel out of place in the latest horror blockbuster. Slow, drawn-out sequences build tension to a notable degree, and Catucci’s ability to seamlessly switch gears from moments of suspense to full-blown terror is effective at catching the audience off guard. For a first attempt at directing feature films, the level of finesse on display is pretty impressive.
However, where Catucci’s work falters is in his scriptwriting. The storytelling, while adequately shot, lacks any clear focus, jolting back and forth between unnecessary subplots with no real subtlety. Events in the film fail to fit together in a logical way; attempts at developing a complex narrative structure frustratingly convolute the film with its lack of nuance or intelligence.
Certain side characters are introduced to add depth to the story, but only take away from the film’s main focal points and its greatest strengths. Other characters receive an inexplicable amount of screentime without complementing the principal narrative, wasting the audience’s time on developments that are of little interest. A more streamlined, simple approach to the story could have been significantly more effective, and would have prevented the audience from being ripped from moments of tension and apprehension.
The dialogue is also poor, stringing together bafflingly incomprehensible lines that feel unnatural. The film’s attempts at creating real characters feels forced, and a substantial portion of their interactions are simply cringeworthy and not at all how average human beings interact with one another.
This weak script is delivered by relatively poor performances all round. Dónall Ó Héalai is solid enough as the deceptive Otis, channeling able levels of creepiness despite having little to do overall. Yet the film’s leads fail to develop the characters into three-dimensional beings, their portrayals feeling wooden and artificial.
Santino Fontana as Rich, who is the film’s central focus, is all smiles and no substance, simply reading out his lines without engaging with the content on an emotional level. Natalie Knepp is given a limited role as love interest Leigh, but also does little to improve the character herself, failing to really make an impact during her time on screen. And Rajeev Varma is easily one of the least amusing comic relief characters in cinematic history, each line produced feeling increasingly less funny than the last.
The combination of these underwhelming performances and a meager script means this film fails to reach the levels it aims for. Catucci puts forward a good idea for an eerie thriller-horror, and delivers it with impressive visual work, but a lack of subtlety and intelligence ultimately makes this a pretty dire affair. The filmmaker shows potential in his directorial debut, but sadly this film is not likely to fire him to instant success.