February 11, 2020 Impossible Monsters (Movie Review)
In the words of Spanish Romantic painter Francisco de Goya, “Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters.” As such, our innermost darkness can haunt beyond the landscape of our dreams, materializing into real cruelties. Such is the case in Impossible Monsters, a Psychological Thriller that arrives to New York’s Cinema Village and Los Angeles’ Laemmle Monica Film Center on Friday, February 14th, 2020, thanks to Gravitas Ventures. For those not in NY or CA, fear not: the film will arrive to VOD in North America, the UK, and Australia on March 3rd, as well as becoming available worldwide via Vimeo on the same date.
After losing the Miller Presidential Citation for Distinguished Contributions in Psychology to a smarmy colleague, the ambitious and well-liked Dr. Richard Freeman (Santino Fontana: Frozen 2013, Shades of Blue series) vigorously pursues his passion project, a sleep study with its focus on nightmares, dreams, and sleep paralysis. The success of said study is imperative to his future, as it could bring a lucrative grant to the university—something that Dean Gaslow (Laila Robins: Planes, Trains & Automobiles 1987, The Blacklist series) is holding over his head.
But the study is inherently flawed from the start, its participants—avant-garde painter Otis (Dónall Ó Héalaí: Traders 2015, Red Dead Redemption II video game 2018), desirous domme Jo (Devika Bhise: The Accidental Husband 2008, The Man Who Knew Infinity 2015), and soft-spoken social worker Leigh (Natalie Knepp: Going the Distance 2010, The Night Before 2015)—are barely interviewed before they are undergoing FMRI scans of their brains.
Soon the line between their dreams and realities begins to blur, a member of the study group is murdered, and everything begins to quickly unravel. With the pressure mounting as two officers begin to ask questions, can Dr. Freeman manage to make things right before someone else loses their life?
Clocking in at 84 minutes, Impossible Monsters is a feature-length debut for exceptional Writer-Director Nathan Catucci (So It Goes short 2006, We Stole the Show: Brooklyn’s Finest short 2013). The film also features the acting talents of Chris Henry Coffey (Trust 2010, The Good Wife series), Dennis Boutsikaris (*batteries not included 1987, Better Call Saul series), Geoffrey Owens (The Cosby Show series, The Paper 1994), Mercer Boffey (NCIS: Los Angeles series, The Affair series), Lyanka Gryu (Sherlock Holmes series, The Americans series), Ben Graney (Billions series, The Blacklist series), and more.
Impossible Monsters is a sleek and sultry Thriller, one that toys with the fine line between wakefulness and sleep-induced fantasy. Utilizing heavy art references (Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare plays a key role, as does the work of de Goya), plenty of dream symbology, a phenomenally tense original score by Michael MacAllister (Step Sisters 2018, Midnight Sun 2018), and lush cinematography from Behnood Dadfar (The Last Time short 2011, Muddy Boots short 2013), this is a film that delivers on all levels to craft a perfectly engaging and thrilling experience.
Utmost is the film’s intriguing screenplay, one that uses heavy psychological elements to craft a uniquely subdued thrill-ride; one that focuses on its haunting conclusion rather than on cheap chills or gory spills. Like a nightmare within a dream, Impossible Monsters is a slow burn that builds toward its third act and then implodes on itself as Dr. Freeman tries to salvage the remains of his study and its participants. It certainly not without flaws, but its powerful enough to supersede any shortcomings.
As the key figure Freeman, Fontana delivers a splendid performance as a professor who is wholly likable and rightfully ambitious, but with a relatability. Never villainous in his pursuits—even when his choices are entirely unethical—Fontana’s Freeman is an enjoyable lead, a well-rounded and real character who is, like us, inherently flawed. Similarly, his study participants—Héalaí’s Otis, Bhise’s Jo, and Knepp’s Leigh—all provide exceptional performances, crafting characters who are believable in both their unabashed sweetness (Knepp), joyful libidinousness (Bhise), and artistic torment (Héalaí).
In this, Impossible Monsters is a tale of eclectic individuals suffering under similar circumstances. As none of the characters are bland or recycled, we are offered three unique perspectives from these engaging personas (we might even consider them a symbolic id, ego and superego), something that is necessary to keep a slow burn tale intriguing for its audience. The film does this, holding its viewer’s interest into its third, implosive act. An act that, it should be noted, may leave you scratching your head in contemplation. Was it all just a dream within a dream?
A thought-provoking and masterful addition to the Thriller genre, Impossible Monsters is smart, sleek, sexy, and worth your time. For this, Cryptic Rock gives the film 4 of 5 stars.