Tuesday, 2 December 2014


A lot of short films tend to forego character to get to the quick, sharp jolt of a terrifying reveal, relying more on a situation and premise than the characters. This is entirely understandable, in less than 20 minutes how can filmmakers really present a realistic and truthful character arc?
A lot cannot — but some can.
I Am Monster is a short that is currently touring film festivals and has been gaining plenty of attention along the way. A collaboration between Lori Bowen (Stella Buio and JustUs) and Shannon Lark (Lip Stick), this short has gained quite the reputation for how far it pushes boundaries.
I don’t shock too easily, so surely I was ready for whatever it had in store for me? Read on...

I Am Monster (2014)

Dir: Lori Bowen and Shannon Lark
Starring: Shannon Lark, Adam Cardon, Jeff Dylan Graham, Katie Fray

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.

Deep in the bowels of an inner-city morgue, the strikingly sexual Vivienne (Lark) uses the sleazily repulsive Paul (Graham) to gain access to corpses. Striding confidently into the room in a skintight rubber dress and a host of props, Vivienne has one thing in mind — because she is a necrophiliac.
Upon identifying a suitable subject for her depraved desires, Vivienne proceeds to defile a Jane Doe (Fray) in a series of increasingly unsettling ways. A Jane Doe she refers to as Number 22...
But as she prepares to leave, she finds herself engaged by another inhabitant of the morgue — Jason (Cardon), whose conversation forces Vivienne to look closer at herself, as well as her own damaged view of the world, love and relationships.
Through an honest and open talk, Jason encourages Vivienne to value herself more and tries to steer her from her isolated monstrous path. However, there’s just one small detail…

BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): SHANNON LARK.
Involved at just about every stage of this production, from co-writer, to co-director, to producer, to lead actress — this really is Lark’s film.
This is all too apparent in the extremely brave way she throws herself into the role. If she had any misgiving whatsoever about this film, I couldn’t tell. She is mesmerising as the aggressively sexy and terrifyingly damaged Vivienne. The performance, combined with the bravely confrontational writing, makes for a strong, unique and fascinating take on the role of women in horror. Vivienne is no squealing victim, nor a male fantasy brought to one-dimensional ‘life’ on screen — she is her own very terrifying breed of monster.
Of course, while the film relies heavily on Lark’s performance to give it a ‘human face’, without a compelling and strong script it would fall apart. A beautifully weighted indictment and inspection of today’s dating scene, where increasingly isolated singles look for a brief moment of physical bonding, a release of tension from day-to-day stresses, yet remain terrified of lowering their guard or risking harm with relationships, it is intelligent, insightful and darkly tragic.
The sparking dialogue between Lark and Cardon crackles, slowly peeling back the layers of the demonically icy Vivienne.
As if that were not enough, the film looks beautiful. Certain shots, the way in which some scenes are framed, the lighting, the angles — at times I Am Monster looks like an art print in motion. I really have no idea how a dimly lit morgue, with its washed-out colours and coldly inhuman metallic surfaces, combined with some of the most revoltingly vile acts of depravity can become so beguiling, yet it truly does.
The short also deserves kudos in just how much it manages to crawl under your skin. Juxtaposing eroticism with the truly disturbing, the film leaves you feeling uncomfortable, unclean and at times, utterly despairing. If the role of horror is to horrify, then Lark, Bowen and their team have succeeded completely.

WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): 
This film will polarise my readers, I really have no doubt of this. Some will see the artistry, the intelligence, others will only see the deeply shocking and upsetting acts on the screen.
I Am Monster is extreme. It has nudity, graphic gore, uncomfortably intense scenes and an unflinchingly nihilistic look at the world. There is a dark and wry humour below the surface, but the surface may be too much for some to penetrate. To those who are easily shocked, this film WILL be too much. You have been warned.
Furthermore, despite its lean mean runtime of a mere 17 minutes, I felt the pacing was ever so slightly off. While it was necessary to see the depths of Vivienne’s depravity before hearing her exchange with Jason to understand exactly how low she had sunk, I still felt the Jane Doe sequence ran a little long. Perhaps that was more due to how unsettling I found it?
Finally, I imagine some people will take issue with the ending. This is very difficult to discuss without spoiling it so read on with caution — personally, I loved it. The slow thawing of the prickly façade, the slightest hint that the titular monster may be able to find some form of salvation… only to have the rug torn from under our feet with a final shot that reveals this particular monster is a more terrifying and disturbed beast than we realised. Once again, I loved it.

VERDICT: Much like Her Name Was Torment, this is a very tough review to summarise. If you are strong enough of stomach, I Am Monster is one of those films that really is a must-see.
From Lark’s captivating performance to the beauty of the film, it is a visual feast with a sharp wit and insight that ensure you will be thinking about if for days to come. If you are not prepared to work with the film, some of you will find it too much.
Personally, I recommend you watch it. Film like this does not come along very often. It deserves to be experienced, appreciated and pondered. The film will shock you. It may even disgust you at times. But it will also excite and provoke thought. Watch I Am Monster — you will never forget it.
If you do take the plunge, be sure to head over to the film’s Facebook page to get more info on where you catch it. Give it a Like while you’re there — these people really, really deserve it.

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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