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Monolith – FrightFest 2023 (Film Review)

3 min read
Lily Sullivan in Monolith

Courtesy of Blue Finch Films

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

There is arguably a lot of pressure riding on the first feature to be created under the Film Lab: New Voices initiative by South Australian Film Corporation. All shot in one location with one on-screen actor in the rolling hills of Adelaide, also sees director Matt Vasely make his feature film debut taking on a story by Wolf Creek's Lucy Campbell.

Described as a ‘high-concept science fiction', Monolith was among the eagerly-anticipated offerings at this year's , receiving its UK premiere tonight.

Lily Sullivan in Monolith
Courtesy of Blue Finch Films

The concept of Monolith is a simple one, following Evil Dead Rise's as a disgraced journalist trying to claw back her career in the wake of a defamation lawsuit. The unnamed interviewer begins the Beyond Believable podcast, a show designed to solve mysteries, with her first subject coming from a mysterious email that points her in the direction of a strange object ruining people's lives. She speaks to an unknown woman named Floramae who speaks about a black brick artefact that threw her life into chaos, and when the episode comes out, more members of the public come forward to speak about their own experiences with the brick. Soon, a strange package arrives on The Interviewer's door which makes her research into a prospective government cover-up and alien conspiracy hit terrifyingly close to home.

Not only is the narrative a simple one, but so too is the execution as we follow one on-screen actor in one location as the story unfolds. However, what the film lacks in technical complexity it certainly does not lack in quality. Monolith is a tight, terrifying thriller that takes an uncomfortable look at recovering from traumatic situations for which we are squarely at fault. Sullivan's character is regularly hit with the sobering reality that her career unravelled because of her own lack of source checking, and it is a theme that continues throughout the narrative with each twist and turn.

Lily Sullivan in Monolith
Courtesy of Blue Finch Films

The single location within Monolith works perfectly to isolate The Interviewer from the world, and therefore any help as danger seems to grow closer without any way to stop it. This, in turn with the impeccable voice acting from those recalling their experiences with the black brick, creates a skin-crawling, claustrophobic experience that makes the audience feel as trapped as the poor souls who have come into contact with the artefact.

Sullivan stunned audiences earlier this year with her portrayal of Beth in Lee Cronin's Evil Dead Rise, and her performance in Monolith is sure to cement the actor as a staple in the genre. Her slow descent into paranoia and fear is felt in everything from her rigid, uncomfortable posture to her wide-eyed glances. It is clear Sullivan is at her best grappling complex characters dealing with heavy subjects onscreen while trying their best not to unravel under the weight of their unseen burdens.

Superbly moody, dark, and chilling, Monolith is simple yet thoroughly effective with a story and central performance that is sure to burrow into your brain for weeks after watching.

Monolith had its UK premiere at on August 26.