Monolith 2022 film poster

Monolith Film Review

Why I took it off the list: I wanted to catch this intriguing-sounding Australian sci-fi/thriller at the 2023 Sitges Film Festival, but missed it at the time. So when I saw that it was finally getting a streaming release, I made watching it a priority.

It seemed to be quite a low-budget affair, so my expectations weren’t that high. However, it had gotten some decent reviews from its festival appearances, and sometimes heavy constraints can be a blessing in disguise.

Plus, the film stars Lily Sullivan, who seriously impressed in her role in Evil Dead Rise last year. So, let’s dig in!

Review of Monolith (2022)

The process of recording an Unexplained Mysteries-style radio show/podcast exclusively from one’s home, filled with lengthy scenes of phone interviews and internet research, doesn’t seem on the surface to be a natural fit for a cinematic narrative.

But this surprisingly effective low-budget sci-fi thriller‘s smart script manages to make the unraveling of a story about a mysterious ‘black brick’ a captivating one.

Largely set in a single location, Monolith only ventures out of the confines of the protagonist’s home for a couple of effective dream-like scenes depicting visions that her interview subjects have had.

But the rich backstory constructed for the film — both for the main character and the history of the seemingly supernatural object — and the expert drip feed of information make this quite a gripping story.

Far from being an inconvenience, the confined setting manages to be one of the biggest strengths of the film, forcing as it does an extreme focus on Sullivan’s character, the only (human!) actor to appear on-screen.

It compounds the sense of isolation and mental instability that this struggling journalist is going through following a public scandal, and brings a real claustrophobia to proceedings.

Sullivan is a Gripping Presence Despite Some Narrative Missteps

That Monolith works as well as it does is largely down to its central actor. Sullivan proves herself to be an even more captivating presence than in the last Evil Dead movie, where she was largely upstaged by the already iconic unhinged antics of Alyssa Sutherland as her demonically possessed sister.

She’s in practically every frame of the film, and manages to hold your attention throughout, even when the script takes some questionable turns at the end of the second act. There are a couple of plot twists late in the runtime that don’t really stand up to scrutiny. However, you could also argue that they kind of work due to the mental unraveling Sullivan is going through.

But the first hour or so is a genuinely gripping mystery, and Sullivan’s performance keeps you glued to the screen even when things start to take a bit of an unexpected and credulity-straining turn. She manages to convey a sense of despair through steely determination, particularly in a climactic sequence where she realizes, far too late, that she’s in way over her head.

Total Score: 7/10

Monolith (2022): Worth Watching?

Yes, Monolith is a tense and thought-provoking sci-fi thriller with an impressive lead performance. It largely works wonders with a (mostly) strong script, engaging mystery, and good acting despite (or because of) its obvious constraints.

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