Mail Order Monster is about a little girl named Sam Pepper (Madison Horcher: Adventures in Babysitting 2016) who is trying to deal with the loss of her mother after a tragic car accident. The bulk of the movie is centered around Sam 3 years after her mom has died. The girl must learn how to deal with bullies, a stepmom-to-be (Charisma Carpenter: Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series) and a father (Josh Hopkins: The Perfect Storm 2000) who doesn’t seem to understand what she is going through.
To add further drama into the mix, Sam orders her very own M.O.M – Mail Order Monster – from the back of a comic for $20. The monster that arrives is robot-like in structure and, without going into any spoilery details, is about as scary as a cuddly kitten. Then again, I don’t think it was meant to be terrifying.
Debut feature Director/Producer Paulina Lagudi is the mind behind Mail Order Monster. She has a number of short films under her belt, both in producing and directing. This film could easily have had a cinema release if a bit more money was thrown at it.
I watched this with my 13-year-old son, a boy with an amazing concentration span. I thought it would be a good idea to get two different demographic viewpoints of the movie. And, for the most part, he had good things to say about it. He especially enjoyed the young actress Madison Horcher. He felt she was believable and loved the attention to detail she gave to certain moments. For example, when she is talking to her mom’s gravestone, Sam fiddles with the grass a bit with her fingers. It’s a little point, but actions like this can sometimes be the difference between a good film and a great film.
Unfortunately, little moments like that don’t make up for the glaringly obvious need for a shorter edit. There are quite a few scenes that drag and take way too long to get to the point. It’s frustrating, to say the least. The demographic for this film is confusing to me as well.
However, for every negative this movie has, there is a positive. So rather than concentrating on the negatives, of which there are few of, I’m going to write about what this film brings to the viewing table and why you should watch it.
Firstly, the subject matters that Mail Order Monster covers is done quite well done. The loss of a family member, especially a mother, is never an easy thing to portray in film. Thankfully Madison Horcher plays the role of an emotionally tortured child very well. Her outbursts are on form, and her reactions to her dad and stepmom-to-be Sydney Hart, in particular, are very realistic.
Then there is the whole bullying section of the film, which has been tried and tested a million times. Only the direction Mail Order Monster takes is quite refreshing. Seeing the bully’s side of things was a great way to go and a little unexpected.
The actual robotic monster, although not at all scary in the slightest, does carry some gravitas with it. The monster is basically the embodiment of her mom. Sam forms a relationship with her new MOM, which is both worrying and endearing to watch as a father.
Mail Order Monster is a straight to DVD TV movie, but it didn’t need to be. With a little more money and time on the edit, this film could have been up there with Where The Wild Things Are, I Kill Giants and A Monster Calls.
If you are looking for an easy Sunday afternoon family film that may tug on your heartstrings a little, then Mail Order Monster is the one for you. The film is coming to On Demand on November 6th.