“Monstrous” is an admirable attempt at the horror genre in the way it makes use of guilt as a motif. Although in many ways similar to other horror films in its execution, it does manage to be different. However, the film isn’t really able to scare as much as it makes one think as to why everything is happening. It gives rise to many questions about Laura, Cody, and the “pretty lady from the pond.” And in this article, we will try to answer, hopefully, all of them.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Monstrous’ Plot Summary
The movie starts with a kid dreaming of water, and it seems as if he is drowning. This breaks his sleep, and he tucks himself under his blanket. This is when his mother comes into his room and tells him that it’s time for school. Thus, we are introduced to Laura Butler and her son, Cody Butler.
Laura and her son Cody shift from their home in Mesa, Arizona, to a new house in California, where we see a man named Mr. Langtree hands Laura over the key while his wife eyes the mother-son duo. However, they leave in their car, and mother and son start exploring the beautiful house. Later, as she unpacks her stuff, she comes across a picture of a woman in black and white. That night again, Cody dreams of water. The next day, after his mother tells him to go and play outside, he finds himself in front of a pond, at a distance from the house, and notices something in the water. Just then, Laura turns up, worried about not being able to find him, and takes him back.
That night, Laura hears Cody screaming from his room and rushes to him. Cody tells her that there is a monster outside his window, something which Laura straightaway brushes away. However, Laura, too, has been dreaming of being attacked by a water monster. It seems to be a result of a daily soap that she has been watching of late, which shows a lady being attacked by such a monster and a man trying to save her. However, for Laura, it is the same woman from the black and white picture who saves her in the dream. The next day, Cody goes to his new school while she goes to her new office. However, neither is Cody able to make friends in school, nor is Laura able to concentrate on her work.
Meanwhile, as time passes, Cody’s experiences with the “pretty lady from the pond” get more terrifying as we start getting glimpses of the entity that haunts him. Ultimately, Laura is able to see her, and it takes a huge toll on her, and she isn’t able to think straight or concentrate on anything. She even reaches out to the Langtrees, but they straightaway deny experiencing any kind of occurrence.
One day, she goes to pick up Cody from school but is unable to find him. He alerts the police, who launch an investigation. At the police station, caseworker Barb Schiff talks to her about an incident that occurred in the past, a year earlier, ignoring Cody’s disappearance. This appears strange to Laura, who reveals how Cody, at their Arizona home, had fallen into the swimming pool while her husband Scott was inside watching the telly. She had gone out to the market but after returning sensed that something was wrong, and upon looking out of their kitchen window, she realized that it was Cody in the pool. She ran to the pool, dragged him out, and performed CPR until the paramedics arrived and revived him. While she says all this, Barb stares at her in a sorrowful manner. Laura’s phone rings, and it’s her mother calling. And then she sees that it wasn’t Barb who was talking to her but her mother. Scared and wondering what’s going on, Laura leaves and drives back home.
Upon entering her house, she finds almost everything inside torn down and Cody sitting at the dining table. She rushes to him and tells him that they are leaving the place and going somewhere else to start afresh. But Cody has other plans. He wants to go to the pond. When Laura tries to stop him, the dark entity turns up to prevent her from doing so. However, Laura, despite everything, doesn’t want Cody to leave. With tears in his eyes, Cody tells her, “You have to let me go, mom.” He tells him that “it wasn’t your fault… it was an accident.” The ending of the film shows Laura and Cody walking towards the pond, and Laura bidding Cody goodbye as the “pretty lady from the pond” takes him away. The film ends with Laura driving back to Arizona, smiling to herself.
A Foreshadowing Conscience of Guilt
It is commendable how the film turns guilt into horror and is able to hold on to its element of surprise till the very end of the film. We do get a hint of something unusual regarding Cody during Laura’s interview with Barb, which tells us of the swimming pool incident. It is, however, at the end of the film, when Cody tells Laura that she has to let him go, and that “it” wasn’t her fault and that it was an accident, that we realize that Cody died in that incident a year ago. And the Cody that we were watching all this time is a figment of Laura’s imagination (more on this later). The amount of guilt inside her for not being able to save her son takes a toll on her psychic self, so much so that she removes the event entirely from her memory and manifests her son. Perhaps this is why the film begins with the scene where we see Cody standing in front of a body of water that we later (during the interview) come to know is the swimming pool. In other words, the film begins with Cody’s death.
However, we do not know how Mr. and Mrs. Langtree coped with Laura. Evidently, they did know about her and that her son was dead. This is why Mrs. Langtree was staring at her while her husband handed Laura the keys to their house. But while Mrs. Langtree’s behavior was rude, Mr. Langtree was surprisingly well-behaved, knowing about Laura’s tragedy.
There is another suggestion. It could also be that Cody was indeed with her, but as a spirit. We know that Laura, like her grandmother, had psychic abilities. So, it may be that she was able to somehow connect to Cody’s spirit in a way that prevented him from leaving the earthly plane and moving on to the other world. This would be the answer to why the kids were running away from school after Cody approached them. For Laura, it is just Cody, but the kids, who are seemingly more vulnerable, especially emotionally, see-through reality and the sense that Cody is but a ghost.
‘Monstrous’ Ending Explained: What is the Grandmother Logic? Did Laura Really Experience All of It?
We do not understand what role her grandmother plays in all that happens. Laura shared her grandmother’s supernatural abilities and could see spirits. The black and white picture that Mr. and Mrs. Langtree find after Laura leaves, at the end of the film, is that of Laura’s grandmother, dated 1959. Clearly, she is the “pretty lady from the pond.” But the question is why? One probable explanation is that she was trying to save her granddaughter from going through the pain. But it was Laura’s mind that was playing games on her, turning her grandmother into a demonic entity that was trying to take her son away from her.
Now, there are two ways the above-mentioned explanation can go. If we consider Cody to be a figment of Laura’s imagination, then all the events of the film are a result of Laura’s psychic mind that feels the pressure of guilt. Both Cody and her grandmother are tricks that her powerful mind plays on her only to save herself the pain of a dead son; so much so that it creates two opposite entities, one of love and another of hatred. Or it could also be that only Cody is a figment of her imagination and her grandmother’s spirit is real. But Laura is trying so hard to not let her son go, holding on to that guilt, that her mind turns on her grandmother’s spirit and gives her the ghastly shape of a demon that is trying to separate her from her son. However, she ultimately gives up, the pain seemingly being too much.
And if we consider both Cody and her grandmother as spirits, then we can easily deem the events of the film supernatural, at the end of which Laura, as well as Cody, realize that they have to let him go. All this time, Cody was under the impression that he was at home. It is when his great-grandmother visits him that he realizes that he doesn’t belong in this world. And then Cody tells his mother that she has to let him go and makes her understand that his death wasn’t her fault. Here too, it was probably Laura’s psychic nature that gave her grandma’s spirit its demonic shape. And when she finally accepts it, realizing that she has to let go, if not for her sake, then for the sake of her son, she is able to see her grandma’s true form as she takes Cody with her to the other side.
“Monstrous,” frankly speaking, contradicts its title. Yes, the name indeed denotes the “monstrous” entity that was seemingly haunting Laura and, in a way, Cody as well, but there is a lot more to the plot and the events that occur. However, given the understanding that the film needs, the title is perhaps a good way to make people opt for the film by giving it a title that is quite objective in nature.
“Monstrous” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Chris Sivertson.