Filmmaker Caroline Lindy establishes herself as an unbridled creative force with her 2024 feature debut, Your Monster. Based on her 2020 short film of the same, Lindy presents the viewer with a wildly unique question: What if your true love is actually the monster living in your closet? Not everyone will be willing to take the leap of faith required to buy into a fully committed romantic horror comedy like this, but those who do will be greatly rewarded. Led by Melissa Barrera in what could be her most dynamic performance to date, Your Monster is an utter delight for both romance and horror lovers. However, underneath the surface of this genre mash-up lies an empowering story of female rage. It’s both incredibly charming and quite cathartic, the kind of movie that you can’t not have a good time watching.
Melissa Barrera plays Laura Franco, an aspiring actress living in New York City who gets dumped out of a 5-year relationship at the worst possible time. While recovering from surgery for her cancer diagnosis, her self-centered douchebag of a boyfriend Jacob Sullivan (Edmund Donovan) decides that he can’t tend to her needs at this crucial time in her life and needs more time for himself. To twist the knife even further, the two were developing a new musical together that just got set for its premiere on Broadway. Jacob, being the brilliant playwright and director he deems himself to be, offered Laura the lead role of “Laurie” since he wrote it for her. She workshopped the character with him from scratch, knowing every song like the back of her hand. Now, after the breakup, her dreams of getting a spotlight on Broadway are in limbo.
The only person Laura can turn to is her so-called best friend Mazie (Kayla Foster), who should arguably be doing more to support her. With nowhere else to go, Laura moves back into her childhood home while her mother is away on another lavish vacation. Home alone and wallowing in her endless sadness, Laura makes a horrifying discovery: There’s someone else in the house. The monster that used to terrify Laura in her youth from under her bed and inside her closet is still here… and he wants her out. Monster (played by Tommy Dewey from Hulu’s Casual), isn’t trying to harm her – he’s just not into roommates. Our titular creature nowadays just wants to order takeout and read, making Laura look like the intruder. Forced to live under the same roof, the two soon learn that they have much more in common, igniting a forbidden romance.
Your Monster functions like a classic urban rom-com, but its underlying horror and female lens give it such a fresh perspective. At first, Laura and her Monster go from unbearable roommates to best friends, bonding over movies and their love of theatre. It all plays out very naturally since Tommy Dewey’s cat-like beast feels like someone we’ve all come across in our lives. He’s that friend that you sometimes can’t stand but you still love them because they’re unashamed of who they are and don’t believe in embarrassment. More importantly, they’re supportive. A real ride-or-die, if you will. Dewey, who reprises the role from the 2020 short and also executive produces, earns every laugh with sincerity. Covered in hair and fantastic prosthetic makeup, Dewey’s performance shines through in his eyes, where you can see the love and caring of a genuine friend.
Your Monster plays its genre-bending concept straight, you’re either on board with this wild story or not. This helps the movie earn the romance between Laura and Monster. When he’s not roaring or eating glass, it’s easy to look past the exteriors and see Monster for who he really is. Many are going to compare this to The Shape of Water because of the obvious, but this is truly its own thing. The story branches out into exciting territory when Monster convinces Laura to audition for the role her ex-boyfriend Jacob promised her. After a few awkward interactions, Laura joins the production as the understudy to the famous actress (Meghann Fahy) cast as “Laurie.” Titled House of Good Women, the musical is meant to be a tribute to women and the societal hardships they endure every day, or at least that’s how its male writer Jacob hilariously describes it.
Coming off the Scream franchise, and her departure from Scream 7, this could not be a more perfect role for Melissa Barrera to shine in. The Mexican actress gets to show off her musical theater background yet again. Though, unlike In the Heights and last year’s Carmen, Your Monster allows her to let loose with her comedic chops and, above all else, fully embrace her anger. Anyone who’s gone through extreme heartbreak will be able to see themselves in Barrera’s performance, the change that comes with meeting Monster and pursuing her Broadway dreams puts her in a state of vulnerability that feels all too real. Your Monster is all about embracing your fears, whether it be the monster in your closet or confronting an ex-lover. Moreover, writer-director Caroline Lindy highlights the freedom that comes with embracing your inner rage.
Sometimes, the cards that life deals us with are unfair. Your Monster makes it clear that it’s perfectly healthy to acknowledge this. No matter how many times you’ve told yourself that “It’s okay” in regards to how unfair life is or all the ways people have wronged you, like how Jacob does to Laura in the film, it’s never too late to accept that it’s actually not okay. Anger should not be repressed. Sometimes, we do deserve better. But being angry at the world or everyone around you isn’t going to fix anything. So, what do we do with all of our rage? Inspired by Lindy’s own experience of being dumped by text while recovering from surgery in the hospital, Your Monster offers a cathartic answer to that question and Melissa Barrera’s performance beautifully captures all the fear and joy that comes with taking the biggest risks in life.
Featuring catchy original songs from music theatre writers Daniel and Patrick Lazour, and an enticing score from Tim Williams (Pearl), Your Monster is a dream combination for many moviegoers. It may seem like a niche concept, though it’s honestly far more accessible than you would expect. Writer-director Caroline Lindy has some additional fun exploring the lore between Laura and Monster, throwing in the kind of humor that would come up between a human-monster romance while still leaving enough room for our imaginations to fill in the blanks. Just like its protagonist, Your Monster is unafraid to alienate viewers. The film is confident in its themes and ends on a note so high that makes you wish we would get more genre blends as brave as this. Melissa Barrera proves to audiences that she’s here to stay and has much more to offer than we can imagine.