A woman discovers that severe catastrophic events are somehow connected to the mental breakdown from which she's suffering.
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Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo has been one of the horror world's best kept secrets. Fright flick fans know him well from his features Timecrimes
and Open Windows
as well as from his short segments in The ABCs of Death
and V/H/S Viral
, but he's remained relatively unknown to general audiences. That's about to change with Colossal
stars Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises
) as a drunk party girl named Gloria who returns to her hometown in an effort to get her life back together. She catches up with her childhood friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis from the Horrible Bosses
movies), who gives her a job at the bar that he owns. While this is going on, the city of Seoul in South Korea has been under sporadic attack by a giant kaiju monster. One evening, Gloria discovers that it is she who controls the monster, making it appear in Seoul every time she walks into a certain area of a neighborhood park. Gloria tries to control the damage that she is doing on the other side of the world, but there's more to her problems than just her monstrous alter-ego.
Despite what it seems, Colossal
is not a monster movie. Well, it's not just a monster movie. That's part of it, and truth be told, that's the most fun part of it, but it's more a movie about a woman pulling herself up by her bootstraps and finding her calling in life, all while falling into the middle of an awkward love triangle. Well, actually, it's a love quadrangle, because besides Jason Sudeikis' Oscar and the boyfriend who prematurely dumped her (portrayed by The Guest
's Dan Stevens), she also has eyes for one of Oscar's friends (played by Austin Stowell from Bridge of Spies
). But, guys and monsters be damned, the story that is front and center is Gloria's dark struggle with herself.
It's tough to pin down a film like Colossal
. It has the feel of an eighties romantic comedy that doesn't have much romance or comedy, but with all the heart and soul replaced by a giant monster. None of the characters are especially likeable or relatable, but that works in the film's favor, as it never gets too sappy or jovial. There are no tears, happy or sad, to distract from the real gimmick of the film, which is Anne Hathaway controlling a giant kaiju while it assaults Seoul!
It's all very genre-bending, and that's the point. Nacho Vigalondo has broken free of his horror reigns without leaving them completely behind. The fact that he can throw a giant monster into a movie that is ostensibly about an alcoholic woman trying to rebuild her life shows that he can always come back to his roots whenever he wants to.
Bear McCreary (10 Cloverfield Lane
, The Boy
, The Forest
) is one of the most sought after film composers on the scene today, and his score for Colossal
shows everyone why. The versatile music pushes full-on into kaiju territory with grandiose and triumphant orchestral pieces, slows down with sparse and minimalistic guitar pick-and-strum areas, and then ventures into eighties-sounding synthesized horror movie score terrain, all without being stripped of its own Bear McCreary thumbprint. It's an effective score that really brings the movie together.
But the most memorable musical moment in Colossal
isn't a McCreary composition. As Gloria returns to her childhood home, gaining entrance by way of a key hidden under the doormat so that she can sleep in the empty house, an innocent sounding version of blues folk singer Elizabeth Cotten's "Shake Sugaree" (with vocals by her twelve year old granddaughter) plays, the lyric "everything I got is done and pawned" driving home the rock bottom that Gloria has just hit. It happens early in the film, giving the viewer the impression that there might be more emotionally fun folk rock music to come. There isn't, but it doesn't make that particular moment any less powerful.
Despite the fact that it's got Nacho Vigalondo and a giant monster, Colossal
is not scary in the least. And that's fine, because it's not supposed to be a horror movie. It's a throwback to the old Godzilla
movies of the sixties and seventies that still feels modern and fresh, more fun and whimsical than frightening. It's a great movie, but those who go into it expecting a full-on horror movie will be sorely disappointed. Those who go in with no expectations at all will most likely be pleasantly surprised. But not scared.