On the surface the sleepy town of Harmony Bay, Oregon looks like any other anonymous coastal settlement, but beneath its innocuous exterior simmers a disproportionate volume of darkness waiting to emerge. And that doesn’t even take into account the series of killings about to begin, whose horrifically distinctive brutality will fuel the nightmares of all involved.
The setting of summer idyll shattered by otherworldly danger gives the story the feel of a dramatised Stephen King novel, although without the painfully dated slang or refusal to accept that culture has progressed beyond the 1960s. Although having a fairly straightforward premise, Monster is a complex assortment of interwoven events following a wide ensemble cast. Front and centre is Sheriff Cody, a single father not long into his new job after transferring from crime-ridden streets of Orlando with his teenage son and young daughter, and under increasing pressure in a variety of ways from the insular townsfolk to prove himself worthy of being accepted as one of them.
Aside from Cody, his family and his colleagues, few characters make any significant impact, and short scenes involving several people often leave you with little understanding of who each of them is and exactly what place in the story they are supposed to have. Variously taking prominence are an obstinate mayor, a mysterious fortune teller, taciturn government agents and a sinister man visiting locals seemingly without purpose, along with various drunks, stoners, hippies and generically disgruntled locals too numerous to properly tabulate. Several sub-plots pepper proceedings that further complicate an already bloated narrative, and to begin with it makes you wonder how it will all tie together, and then if it will.
A few too many overt statements are used to specify the action and implied visuals, which character reactions and sound effects make perfectly clear by themselves. Also, numerous unnecessary references to contemporary culture and technology are shoehorned in to make it clear exactly when the story takes place, as if this wasn’t expressed in the opening monologue and the drama’s very name.
Aside from these issues, the story is for the most part a suitably creepy mystery, and its unflinching horror angle challenges your imagination to conjure suitably grisly visuals to match the scene descriptions. Various monsters both supernatural and all too human are uncovered as the story progresses, making it debatable to whom the title actually refers.
With lingering plot points, a cliffhanger ending and To Be Continued denouement, it’s a little frustrating that the concentration expended on Monster’s story doesn’t fully pay off, but it does at least make you look forward to the release of what we can hope is an adequate conclusion.
MONSTER 1983 / DIRECTOR: CHERRY COOKSON / WRITER: IVAR LEON MENGER , ANETTE STROHMEYER , RAIMON WEBER / STARRING: CALLUM BLUE, ANASTASIA GRIFFITH, MARC WARREN, LORELEI KING, STUART MILLIGAN / PUBLISHER: AUDIBLE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW