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Film / Monster! (1999)

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Monster! is a 1999 Made-for-TV Movie by John Lafia, starring Tobias Mehler, M. Emmet Walsh, and Angela Keep.

Travis returns to his hometown of New Purgatory to take care of his elderly, seemingly insane, estranged grandfather, famous monster actor Lloyd Reeves. Lloyd believes the movies he's created have somehow become real and that the entire town is in danger. However, despite Travis's misgivings, his grandfather may be more right than anyone could ever imagine. And now it's a race against time to stop a horrible evil before it's set loose on the world.

Not to be confused for the 1999 young adult novel, the 2003 film, or the manga, all also titled Monster.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: While a celebration of B-Movies, the film has no problem lampshading and poking fun at genre conventions.
  • Agent Scully: Justified and Enforced: one of the 'rules' of the 'movie' is that everyone will always come up with a 'logical explanation' to explain away the Monster's actions until it's too late.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's unclear whether the Monster is the cause of the curse while trying to escape its movies or if it escaping its movies is a consequence of that curse.
  • Antagonist Title: The title refers to the Monster that serves as the film's main villain.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: One early demonstration of Travis' intelligence and observational skills comes when he is allowed to see the remains of one of the Monster's early victims, and is able to instantly call out the medical examiner's declaration that the wounds were made by an axe as being wrong because the structure of the tissue damage is wrong for it to have been inflicted by an axe, and instead displays the characteristics of claw-marks.
  • Barrier Maiden: Lloyd's battles with the Monster are this. If he doesn't defeat it every three years and it succeeds in destroying the town, it escapes the 'movie' and is free to ravage the larger world.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: Lloyd lampshades B-Movie cliches constantly. Justified, as he's played the main protagonist of the movies and also aware the Monster is warping reality to make the town follow the rules of one.
  • Big Bad: The title Monster. While it's unclear whether it's the cause of the curse or merely a symptom of it, it is the main threat that must be defeated to prevent it from escaping the 'movie.'
  • B-Movie: An Affectionate Parody of the genre. In-Universe, the Monster escaped from a franchise of these and brought the rules of one with it.
  • Buffy Speak: Lloyd uses a lot of B-Movie archetypes to refer to people; "Town Hero", "Town Doctor", "Info Man", etcetera.
  • Came Back Strong: Every time the Monster resurrects, it adapts to whatever killed it last time. This time it has a Healing Factor.
  • Came from the Sky: The Monster came to Earth in a meteorite in the In-Universe movie franchise. However, while the real one did arrive this way, it came from somewhere else entirely. Lloyd theorizes it's the cause of a curse.
  • Cassandra Truth: Justified and Enforced: no matter how much evidence suggests Lloyd is right about the Monster, one of the 'rules' of the 'movie' is that no one will believe him until it's too late. They'll just come up with a 'logical explanation.'
  • Chekhov's Gun: Subverted. Early in the film, when Lloyd is placed in prison, he overhears that one of the farmers is missing a cow. After confirming this, he develops a horrified look and mutters to himself that "it never eats cows". Aside from the dead cow's head popping up in a lake to terrorize a pair of skinny dippers before the Monster eats them, and Lloyd instructing Travis that the Monster never eats cows, the cow's death is never explained or brought up again.
  • Curse: While the Monster is supposedly an alien, Lloyd speculates it's the result, or cause, of a curse on the town that brought it out of the movies and causes it to resurrect every three years (or according to Lloyd, at one point have a Sister) to attack the town. If not killed, then it will destroy the town and escape the 'movie.' After it's beaten, everyone forgets its real except the movie's 'protagonist' and anyone it killed ceases to exist.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The Monster is primarily black and white in color. It escaped from a franchise of black and white movies from the 50s.
  • Dented Iron: A major issue: Lloyd has been fighting and killing the Monster and its Sister for decades, but old age is catching up with him and he wants Travis to take his place because soon, he likely won't be able to defeat it anymore. This proves right in the climax, when he's unable to do so and it falls to Travis to become the new protagonist and defeat it.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once: The Monster (or it's Sister) returns every three years. If it were to ever win and destroy the town, it would fully escape the movie and be let loose on the world as a whole.
  • Feed It a Bomb: Lloyd's protagonist killed the Monster during Night of the Monster by throwing a bomb down its throat. Presumably he also did this to it at some point during the cycle. They attempt to kill it this way this time around, but it's evolved a Healing Factor and just regenerates.
  • Genre Savvy: Lloyd, as he made the movies the Monster came from. As it runs on horror movie logic, Lloyd's knowledge of how horror movies work is instrumental to stopping it every three years.
  • Genre Throwback: Justified: the Monster escaped from a 1950s monster B-Movie and every time it gets loose, it enforces the rules of a B-Movie on the town by its mere presence.
  • Healing Factor: The Monster's new ability this time around. It's to the point even blowing it up can't kill it and it just regenerates.
  • Immune to Bullets: Guns generally can't kill the Monster, but they can apparently affect it somewhat. Sometimes, as Lloyd points out, it varies from 'sequel' to 'sequel' how vulnerable it is.
  • It Only Works Once: One of the rules the Monster runs on: whatever was used to kill it before can't kill it a second time. This time around, it has an insane Healing Factor to the point that blowing it up can't kill it.
  • Kill It with Ice: Travis kills the Monster by dropping into liquid nitrogen. While it's not enough to kill it, it does make it vulnerable to being shattered and stops it from regenerating.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Part of the curse: after the Monster is killed and the movie properly 'ends', everyone but the 'movie's' protagonist forgets it and its rampage. As for whoever it kills, they simply cease to exist.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Travis and company kill the Monster by dropping it into liquid nitrogen and then shattering it with firearms when it rises back out. Being frozen prevents its Healing Factor from kicking in and causes this to stick.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Exactly how the Monster escaped the movie and how it's affecting the town is never revealed, and Lloyd outright admits he hasn't figured it out. He speculates it's the result of a curse placed on the town, but isn't certain. He only figured out the rules, not how it actually started.
  • Out of Continues: Lloyd theorizes this is the only way the cycle could actually end: to find a way to permanently kill the Monster (and presumably then do the same to its Sister).
  • Passing the Torch: Lloyd wants to do this to Travis, as he's getting too old to kill the Monster every three years.Travis accepts at the end.
  • Phlebotinum-Induced Stupidity: Whenever the Monster resurrects, the town and everything in it is forced to abide by horror movie conventions. This explicitly includes making everyone but the 'movie's' designated protagonists Genre Blind.
  • Police Are Useless: Justified and Enforced: the 'movie' the town is trapped in forces everything in it to run on horror movie logic, which includes making this trope true. In fact, Lloyd outright states one way to tell the Monster is dead is that the police will finally show up.
  • Reality Bleed: Seems to be part of the situation going on: the Monster escaped from the movies into the real world, but brought the rules of a B-Movie along with it whenever it's active. Lloyd implies if it were to ever win, it'll be able to entirely escape movie land.
  • Reality Warper: The Monster, or the curse Lloyd speculates unleashed it, seems to have some level of reality warping effects, from erasing all memory of it after its killed, to erasing its victims, and even enforcing horror movie rules on the town.
  • Refugee from TV Land: The title Monster somehow escaped from the movies Lloyd made and returns every three years. It's not truly free, however, as it can only escape the 'movie' completely by winning and destroying the town.
  • Regularly Scheduled Evil: The Monster (or its Sister) resurrects every three years in the build up to a film festival, forcing Lloyd to kill it again.
  • Resurrective Immortality: The Monster can be killed, but either it or its Sister will always resurrect every three years for a 'sequel.'
  • Ret-Gone: What happens to anyone killed by the Monster. Lloyd speculates it and the Monster are part of a curse.
  • Sadist: The Monster is shown to be actively sadistic, often giving a Slasher Smile and playing mind games to terrifying its prey before killing them (such as scaring the skinny dippers with a cow's severed head or throwing the bloody clothes of one of its victims at their friend). Notably, Lloyd implies its actually gotten more evil and sadistic since this whole thing started.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The title Monster was buried in a quarry last time Lloyd killed it, and is unearthed by construction.
  • Sealed Evil in a Duel: Lloyd's battles with the Monster are this: while he can't kill it for good, if it wins and destroys the town, it will escape the 'movie' and be let loose on the larger world.
  • Sequel Hook: Played With: while the movie ends with a tentacle retreating into the lake, implying another Monster is out there or the Sister of the Monster has returned as well, the movie's invoking horror movie cliches whenever possible makes it unclear if this was actually intended to set up a sequel or just poking fun at this cliche.
  • Sex Signals Death: Enforced due to the Monster forcing the town to abide by monster movie rules. Its first victims after reviving are a pair of teens making out in their car and preparing to have sex while its second set are making out whilst skinny dipping.
  • Show Within a Show: The Monster franchise is an extremely successful series of 50s B-Movies Lloyd made and the title creature escaped from. Several are named dropped:
    • Night of the Monster
    • Beware the Monster
    • Sister of the Monster
  • Stylistic Suck: The film has many cliches and tropes common in B-Movies, but this is intentional, both in homage and because In-Universe the Monster's presence forces those rules on the town.
  • The End... Or Is It?: As to be expected of an intentional emulation of the B-Movie genre: after the monster is killed and the 'movie' is over, a tentacle is seen retreating into the lake, implying either another monster has arrived or the Sister of the Monster has resurrected and is going to be the villain of the 'sequel.'
  • The Ghost: There's actually a second Monster called Sister of the Monster that also escaped the movies and was buried in the same quarry as the original when killed. She never appears, however. However, at the end of the movie a tentacle is seen retreating into the lake as a Sequel Hook despite the original being confirmed dead at the time, implying she might also be free and waiting three years for her 'sequel.'
  • This Is Reality: Everyone believes Lloyd is insane and tries to tell him this in regards to his belief the Monster exists. Naturally, they're wrong. Justified, as whenever the Monster is dead, it is reality and while it is active, it actively warps their minds and reality itself to prevent them from piecing together that Lloyd is right until the climax.
  • Troperiffic: The movie is full of B-Movie tropes and cliches. Justified, as the Monster is from a 50s monster movie and its presence actively enforces those tropes and cliches on the town.
  • Victory by Endurance: Lloyd is able to defeat the Monster every three years, but the Monster has Resurrective Immortality and can't be killed for good. Even if it could be, its Sister is still out there and would likewise have to be killed off. As such, Lloyd fears soon he'll become too old to actually kill it anymore and it will inevitably win if Travis doesn't become the new protagonist.