Small problems, if allowed to fester, become monsters. This is the not-so-underlying message of Colossal. But director Nacho Vigalondo takes a wildly peculiar route to it, mashing up Japanese monster movies with Freudian psychology and gags that might feel more at home in the Hangover series.
Ever since Gloria (Anne Hathaway) lost her job as a journalist, she’s either moping about or getting blind drunk. When her boyfriend has had enough, she scurries back to her hometown and gets a waitressing gig at a bar run by childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis).
Her boozy-woozy existence continues until a giant creature terrorises Seoul out of nowhere. To her horror, its scowl is the spitting image of her own hungover face, and it mimics a nervous tick she’s practically patented.
Vigalondo, who hails from Spain, the hub of highbrow horror, riffs on the phantasmagorical motifs of his compatriots: the projection of fears onto an animistic being has appeared in JA Bayona’s A Monster Calls, while parallel universes between the human and the supernatural recall Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others. For a country scarred by civil war and Franco’s fascist rule, fantasy horror is a powerful genre for unlocking the fear and guilt about a brutal history that some may prefer to block out – much like a drunken stupor.
Although Colossal is set in New York City and small town America, its exploration of the dark recesses of the mind has a brooding, European flavour. The monster is a metaphor for Gloria and her gang’s drinking habits, but alcoholism in the film is itself a metaphor for escapism, as well as for the mindless destruction caused by human selfishness.
The film also takes cues from the best Spanish horror films in employing the perspective of children to contrast innocence with evil: the monster attack takes place in a playground, and the big reveal takes the protagonists back to their primary school days. On a psychoanalytical level, the film takes arrested development to an extreme, represented by Gloria’s sluggishness and the sinister ramification of Oscar’s boyish attention seeking. Hathaway exploits her adorably ditzy image from her past comedies to win over audiences initially, only to derail their expectations with a more complex persona.
Where Vigalondo departs from his peers’ blood-curdling tales is the sheer oddity of his concept. His sense of humour is also one of a kind. Sequences of Seoul under rampage by the rubbery monster are cheesy and spectacular at the same time – perhaps an elaborate in-joke poking fun at motion-capture technology in modern special effects-laden films.
Find Colossal in Movies (Western Cinema) on the interactive menu onboard, until January 31, 2018.