A24’s newest film The Monster is a disturbing horror film on many levels. The story mainly focuses on the relationship between a young girl and her abusive mother. After staying with her mother, the girl is being driven home when a dark and menacing creature interrupts their road trip and terrorizes the pair. We spoke with lead actress Zoe Kazan about her role as the mother Kathy and how she approached playing such a difficult character in a horror film. The Monster is out now in theaters, VOD and on DirecTV.
Fandom: How did you get involved in this movie?
Zoe Kazan: I read the script, and I thought it was wonderful. There aren’t that many female roles like this that come to me, and I jumped at the chance.
Fandom: How would you describe the film and the story?
Kazan: It’s about a mother and daughter who are struggling in their relationship with each other. The mother, who is my character, Kathy, is pretty ill-equipped as a parent and is struggling with her own self-loathing and addictions.
Her daughter wants to go and live with her father. Kathy drives them to her father’s house and they get into an accident on the road, and there’s something waiting in the woods. It’s really about this woman trying to fix the worst parts of herself in order to take care of her child.
Fandom: This is a really intense role. You go from being the bad guy to trying to protect your daughter against this creature. How did you approach playing Kathy?
Kazan: I think in this role I was encouraged to convict compassion for the character and her choices. She’s not being an excellent parent, but I felt a tremendous amount of compassion from Kathy. I really felt like she was doing her best setting out. I just tried to come at it with empathy and understanding.
From a physical level, it was incredibly challenging. We were shooting nights and soaking wet, and to maintain that level of adrenaline was hard on the body. It was very cumbersome, but it was worth it.
Fandom: The movie is intense all the way through, and by the end, you have to actually confront the monster face to face. How did you deal with all the creature and gore special effects?
Kazan: Everything with the monster was practical, so it was a man in a suit. We had an amazing stunt team that really took care of us. It’s hard when you know the person inside the suit. You know that they’re working very hard not to harm you, yet I still had to have that adrenaline and level of fear.
Fandom: Do you think the monster in the movie is a metaphor at all about the relationship between your character Kathy and her daughter Lizzy?
Kazan: I think to take the monster literally would be to have the smallest possible interpretation of this film. I do think that it does have a metaphorical side to it.
Fandom: How was your relationship with Ella Ballentine who played Lizzy? You two have some really disturbing and emotional scenes together in this.
Kazan: I don’t think I could have done this movie with anyone else. Ella is so wonderful and special, and I think there has to be real love and trust between actors in order to go to those very dark places. She was only 14 when we shot this and I thought she showed incredible maturity and bravery on set.
We had to find that level of trust very quickly. We didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time, and I’m just really proud of her and how she handled that.
Fandom: Do you have any stories about working with director Bryan Bertino and are you a fan of The Strangers?
Kazan: Bryan is great. I really did like The Strangers very much. I thought it was incredibly scary without relying very heavily on gore which I appreciate because I’m kind of squeamish. I felt lucky to work with him, and his writing is extraordinary.