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Kino Korner March 4, 2004
The Monster Mash
By Mark Ames Browse author Email

I saw Monster last month at a San Jose arthouse theater. Saw it with my mother. This might seem odd to you Normaloids out there: going to a movie about a dyke serial-murderer with your retired mother.

Even Flounder said to me, "You saw Monster with your mother?"

That's nothing, folks. When I was a child, I saw all kinds of movies with my mother, many of which produced real blooper-like moments. Like when my mom took me to see Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which had so much sex in it that I think they may have rated it X. I don't remember, exactly, because I was about eleven years old at the time. All I know is that during the bloody climax of the movie, when the impotent priest starts knifing the naked Diane Keaton in her tits, my mother put her hand on my thigh and...well, I'd rather not get into it. Let's just say that she was in for a surprise, quickly removed her hand, and we never talked about it since. Hey, is that a blooper moment or what?!

We sure as hell did go to a lot of racy movies, my mom and I, so Monster didn't scare us one tiny bit. Dyke, schmyke, we've seen it all together. Thanks to American movies, and my mother's enlightened child-rearing philosophy, I grew up to have a healthy fascination with sex and violence... and sexual violence... and violent sex. In other words, I turned out to be a healthy, red-blooded American.

Who would you rather have as your kino reviewer, some earnest, concerned Danish Social-Democrat? No, you wouldn't, and the sooner you admit that to yourself and to your family, the sooner we can all move on and put this behind us.

Wait, what the hell am I talking about? Oh yeah, Monster.

There is a new trend I'm noticing in Hollywood, or rather a trend that is becoming a kind of standard. And that trend is the fake independent film, just like rock music now has its alternative-mainstream. Only this is worse. It's the gentrification of indy movies, and Monster is just another in a series, along with films like Butterfly Effect and Lost in Translation. What these movies do is take indy aesthetics on an incredibly superficial level...and leave it there, on that superficial level, gutting all the danger and daring that makes an indy film good (when they're good, which admittedly is rare).

Monster blends at least three classic indy-film subjects -- serial murderers, homosexual love, and society's "seamy underbelly" -- and combines them with a typical indy aesthetical preference for having "real-looking" homely, un-Hollywood looking leads.

Except that it doesn't have or do any of those things I just listed. A real indy film about serial murders -- I'm thinking of classics like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or Man Bites Dog -- would not try to glorify its subject the way all cheap, idiotic Hollywood movies do. Rather, they show serial murderers for what they really are: dim, empty, mean insects who get off on killing for power. In Henry the serial killer had nothing to say whatsoever; in Man Bites Dog, the serial killer wouldn't shut the fuck up, he was the world's biggest windbag.

In the hands of director Patty Jenkins, Monster is just a dreary rags-to-stolen-cars love tragedy with a bit of trendy feminism thrown in to give it an "indy"-esque veneer. In fact it's a lot like one of those gritty 70s rural melodramas with a Kris Kristofferson soundtrack. You almost want to hum "We're gonna make it after all" every time wide-eyed dyke-coquette Christina Ricci whines to serial murderer Aileen Wuournos, played appallingly by Charlize Theron, to bring her more money or another car.

"But Ai-i-i-leee-eee-eeen! I wanna hoooouse, Ai-i-i-lee-een! C'mo-o-on!"

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