The DVD cover of The Monk states that it is the “Horror Of The Year…Far Superior To The Woman In Black” – don’t believe it. While The Monk may have supernatural elements, it’s actually a gothic drama – not a horror. A rather good gothic drama at that.
Vincent Cassel plays the titular monk, an abandoned child, named Ambrosio by the Capucin monks who found and raised him. Ambrosio grows up to become the most pious man in the monastery, but his faith is tested when he has lusty longings.
The Monk looks fantastic, it’s dark and brooding, much like Cassel, who delivers another one of his intense trademark performances. However, the film has pacing issues, something which probably stems from it being an adaptation of Matthew Gregory Lewis’ 1796 novel. I haven’t read the book, but I gather that it is quite a weighty tome, and that many plot points and characters have been excised to fit the film’s 100 minute running time.
The film begins at a leisurely pace, taking its time to set up the characters and the setting. The climax, in contrast, feels rushed, it’s as if director Dominik Moll feels the urgent need to wrap things up. This is a real shame, because it skips from event to event, almost giving the impression that it’s a totally different film – or at the very least directed by a different person.
This may sound like I didn’t like The Monk – I did, however, I feel that it could have been great, not just good.