Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal puts the fantastical elements of a horror film into the smaller scale of the everyday narrative. The writer-director manages to put a quirky twist in the very played out social drama of the middle-class by adding monsters, which is arguably the most interesting part of this film.
In the opening scene, Seoul is attacked by a flat faced colossus. We later find out that it is a creation made by a magical lightning strike hitting two children at the same time, Gloria and Oscar, during a spat. Quickly transitioning twenty-five years later, without any sightings of the monster, we are rushed into the life of our self-destructive and alcoholic heroine Gloria (Anne Hathaway). She has a laissez-faire attitude that leads her to quit her job as an internet journalist and is soon kicked out of the upscale apartment she shares with her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) in New York. After moving back to her conveniently absent parent’s home in an unnamed home town, she promptly reunites with old childhood chum, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis).
From here on the film alternates from bitter-sweet comedy to dark relationship drama. Oscar has been closely following Gloria’s career, but the film initially treats this interest as a cute gesture. The two reignite their relationship during late night hang outs at Oscar’s bar with his two best friends. During one of these drunken nights, Gloria stumbles into a playground at the same time that the monster reappears in Korea. Soon realising her presence in the yard causes the manifestation of the colossus, she explains this phenomenon to her new drinking pals.
Soon after, we see a jealous side to Sudeikis’ character. Sickened by Gloria’s success and now the ability to control a beast, Oscar aims to control Gloria by using his own flat faced colossus, threatening to destroy Seoul if she does not do what he says. They both share the same alcoholic dependency, but use it differently as a coping device. Gloria drinks to forget her recently shattered relationships, while Oscar nurtures his self pity as an owner of a mostly empty bar. This sort of self absorbed attitude to everyday problems makes it very difficult to relate to the characters. This is only exaggerated by the melodramatic music that manifests every time they must face their issues. Although, in fairness, most of us shut out global issues in order to focus on our own relatively trivial concerns.
Of course that is the point that Vigalondo wanted to make. The writer-director shows the destructive nature of the inactive replicated by the large monsters in Seoul and the very real consequences it holds. Under our own vices we put ourselves and others in turmoil. We all have different monsters within us, and even with the help of the people we know best, ultimately our destruction is bound to our choices.
Anne Hathaway brings some depth to a self absorbed character. Once again, she shows her range as an actor, going from a flawed and semi-relatable person to the dark monster she brought in Rachael Getting Married. However, I am surprised to say that Jason Sudeikis, to an extent, overshadows Hathaway’s performance. Up until recently he has been typecast as the mild-mannered nice guy. Sudeikis still brings his southern Missouri charm that fans come to adore him for, when need be, however he has graduated to a worthy antagonist, as he taps into something more sinister.
Colossal is just one of many recent films that have used horror tropes as a way to explore social unease. With films like Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe and J.A. Bayona’s upcoming fantasy epic A Monster Call, monsters are expanding outside of the horror genre and into serious dramas. If they can be as witty and clever as this one, I look forward to this new line of fantasy cinema.