Due to inherent minimalism in storytelling, “Monolith” can be a sleepy sci-fi-ish marathon of voices over phones and mouse clicks. Cinematographer Michael Tessari utilizes every inch of the production’s barren house location, using window reflections to add depth or panning back to exploit how alone Sullivan is in every scene. Vesely’s direction and Campbell’s storytelling craft a unique angle to sell single-location necessitation that Tessari elevates through visual arrangements reflecting contemplative silence, the same quietness that Sullivan’s character is forced to deal with by her lonesome. The podcast creation motivation leaves Sullivan’s interviewer to her own devices, which becomes a more intriguing story about how online conspiracy culture thrives where there’s only one person evaluating opinions.
The psychological analysis of mass hysteria, shared paranoias, and our selfish craving to popularize someone else’s story for personal gains isn’t richly expansive. It’s telling and inarguable, but horror elements — adjacent at best — aren’t emphatic enough to distract from the breezier nature of Sullivan’s one-woman show. Vesely has a keen eye for shot composition, and Sullivan keys into the uneasiness within soundwaves that become her character’s strange obsession, yet “Monolith” still will test patience as the talkative brand of suspense relies massively on the film’s last few minutes. A throttle towards the inevitable in a relatively low gear never builds breakneck momentum, more floating through psychoanalytical weirdness wired to our insatiable desire to explain the unexplainable.
Fans of slower-burn, brainwave-tickling chills should keep an eye out for “Monolith.” Matt Vesely peers into the digital emptiness of online spaces and questions the ethics of investigative exploitation through means that play at half-volume. Lily Sullivan earns her praise as a solo actor who only needs technology as a supporting cast, one of the highlights that sustains “Monolith” beyond an intriguing idea put to screen. Don’t expect your adrenaline to pump — remember, sometimes the silent types hold the darkest secrets.
/Film Rating: 7 out of 10