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  • Jeff Beck

Monolith: A Self-Contained Mystery That Never Takes Off (Blu-ray)


The Film:


Some people just can't resist an intriguing conspiracy theory, the kind that range from aliens & other outer space phenomena to any slightly odd occurrence right here on Earth. To that end, it's hardly a surprise that a number of podcasts devote themselves to these strange happenings, roping in viewers as they dig into mysteries that often have no logical explanation. It's an idea that may work well-enough for some amusing listening, but what would happen when trying to adapt such a concept into a film? That's exactly what screenwriter Lucy Campbell and director Matt Vesely have attempted to do with their new thriller "Monolith," a minimalist (i.e. low-budget) project originating from the Film Lab: New Voices initiative in Australia. Out of 63 entries, this was chosen to be produced, but the question remains: Would the concept work well in another medium, or was this idea best left in its original streaming form?


Taking place in and around a single location, we follow a disgraced journalist, "The Interviewer" (Lily Sullivan), who is trying to rebuild her career by starting a podcast called "Beyond Believable" in which she explores intriguing mysteries. She receives an anonymous email with contact information for Floramae (Voice of Ling Cooper Tang), who tells her about a strange black brick that was taken from her several years ago by a family that her parents used to work for. As the story develops, she finds other people who have come into contact with these bricks, deepening the mystery even more, and leading to discoveries that begin to directly affect her.


As mentioned, this is a very minimalist film, taking place in and around the house of The Interviewer's parents (who are away on vacation). Over the course of 90 minutes, it attempts to ramp up the tension and dread as she conducts her interviews, slowly learning more about the bricks and the effect they've had on these people, eventually showing that there might be a closer connection to her than she realized. This might have been all well and good had it not been for the slight problem of the mystery not being a particularly compelling one.


The film seems to get stuck in a bit of a rut early on that it's never really able to shake from, telling us over and over that these mysterious bricks have been received by several people and that they're obviously causing quite a lot of mental problems, all the while trying to spin it together with conspiracy theories concerning what the bricks are and what they're for. By the time it comes to its final act, it becomes obvious that the filmmakers have been banking on their conclusion, in which certain connections & realizations come to light, to provide enough of a payoff after sitting through the film's mostly monotonous build-up.


Unfortunately this doesn't end up being the case, for while it may provide a small "Aha" moment, it's a far cry from a satisfying realization, which is only made more disappointing by its purposefully ambiguous ending. What "Monolith" truly needed was a total overhaul of its foundational mystery, for the one it has just doesn't provide the proper suspense & tension its obviously gunning for, leading to a film that will likely test the patience of most viewer's as they listen to seemingly-unending telephone conversations between The Interviewer and her subjects. It was an interesting idea to do a little self-contained mystery like this, but in order to pull it off, you need to make absolutely sure that the mystery itself is solidly engaging, or else the film is simply doomed to end up as bland as a rambling podcast.


Video/Audio:


"Monolith" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.00:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. It's a very basic, low-budget film, but the image looks fantastic throughout its brief 90-minute runtime. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is superb, giving you all of the dialogue (particularly important as much of the film is very dialogue-heavy) and music in excellent quality. Overall, it simply looks & sounds great for its debut home release.


Special Features:


Audio Commentary: An informative track featuring director Matt Vesely, producer Bettina Hamilton, and writer Lucy Campbell.


Behind the Scenes (8 Minutes): A brief behind the scenes look that features snippets of interviews with cast & crew.


Conclusion:


The self-contained thriller concept of "Monolith" was an interesting idea, with star Lily Sullivan giving a strongly-committed performance, but sadly the mystery at its core proves to be a rather monotonous, unengaging one, which ultimately results in a bland film that never achieves the high levels of tension & suspense that it's aiming for.


Score: 2.5/5


Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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