Forced to move when her mother gets a new job, a teenager called Sol has to face dangers ranging from power outages, bullies at a new school, the worrying behaviour of her mother’s boyfriend, and attacks in the night the press are reporting as a “puma”. These attacks drive the community into a frenzy which may be connected to a strange dog Sol has befriended.
As an upfront disclaimer, Argentinian horror The Night Belongs to Monsters is not going to be a film for everyone. It opens up strong and atmospheric with a creepily shot animal attack that then shows the community’s response to it. This is an interesting foundation for what is to come, but what follows from there is ultimately a niche not everyone will enjoy. This is very much a teen drama that leans heavily on actress Lu Grasso, who puts in a strong performance as an outsider plunged into immediate misery who wants nothing more than to just escape back to the life she had before.
The cinematography is solid, with an especial flare for night shoots making use of harsh lighting found on location. Getting that type of lighting to add to a film instead of detract from it is no easy feat but these scenes are vibrant with a hint of the nights being otherworldly in a way that bigger budget features can fall flat attempting. The soundtrack of the reviewed version was glorious retro horror synth which evoked such nostalgia facing projects as It Follows or Stranger Things, although this sadly may have only been used as placeholder since what was reviewed is a screener copy yet to be finished. It’s pretty uncommon to encounter a placeholder score, a practice that is normally much earlier in the process before reaching screener stages if it is used at all. Should they change the soundtrack, they will hopefully keep this great aesthetic. The placeholder used made some bold and enjoyable choices.
The supernatural side of this film really isn’t scary, sadly, we’re looking more at a dark fable here which isn’t helped by the friendliest and least threatening looking fluffy white dog attempting to be depicted as dangerous. What horror it manages comes instead from the real world elements. The community’s response to the animal attacks is unnerving in how much it escalates, as understandable as that fear may be. The bullying of the new school drama may pull people who aren’t invested in the teen drama out of the story somewhat, but there’s a low level mundane evil to it all which should ramp up the oppressive nature of the setting for viewers who are the right target audience. The stand out threat of the movie definitely comes from the unnerving performance of Esteban Lamothe as the mother’s boyfriend Gonzalo. He’s an intensly unsettling creep who abuses his power over Sol in a few uncomfortable ways that leave her bullied pretty much all around the clock combined with the school mean girl clique, pushing Sol’s situation into a relentless grim oppression which makes the supernatural a welcome retreat instead of something to avoid.
This is a teen outsider drama at heart and doesn’t do much to transcend that niche. If this isn’t for you? You’re unlikely to take much from it. But if it is for you? It’s no Ginger Snaps, but it will be Ginger Snaps enough for those it clicks with.
We watched The Night Belongs to Monsters as a part of Grimmfest 2021.
Luke Greensmith is an Editor at the Grimoire of Horror and an active folklorist as well as working in film across a few roles. While this can cover quite a wide range of things, he’s a dedicated horror fan at heart and pretty involved with horror communities both online and local to him. You can find their folklore work on the Ghost Story Guys Podcast, their own LukeLore podcast, and accompanying the artist Wanda Fraser’s Dark Arts series as well as on the Grimoire of Horror itself.