The breakout star of ‘It Follows’ and ‘The Guest’ continues to shine on the big screen.
If the name Maika Monroe doesn’t immediately ring a bell, it definitely should. Amidst a sea of flourishing young actors, Monroe is legitimately everywhere, nabbing all kinds of leading roles in movies and starring opposite prominent actors of both the veteran and up-and-coming variety. And honestly, why shouldn’t this be the case when Monroe herself is one of the most understated yet undeniably magnetic young actors out there at the moment?
According to Variety, Monroe is set to join the Shia LaBeouf-penned Honey Boy, a show business drama that is loosely based on LaBeouf’s own life. The plot tracks the journey of a child star trying to reconcile with his criminal alcoholic dad. Monroe will play an aspiring actress named Sandra (maybe a fictionalized version of China Brezner?). The film will be directed by Alma Har’el (Bombay Beach) and is also set to star LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), and Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place).
Meanwhile, it was reported in early May that Monroe will be starring alongside Dylan O’Brien in the sophomore effort of Christopher MacBride (The Conspiracy). The determinedly genre-less The Education of Frederick Fitzell centers on its eponymous protagonist, who has to confront certain aspects of his past; this includes the mystery of a missing girl. While no details have been provided about Monroe’s character in Frederick Fitzell, to assume that she could indeed play the girl haunting the protagonist’s psyche wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination.
These projects will soon become part of Monroe’s already-stacked filmography. When she was first starting out six years ago, her first feature film appearance in At Any Price already placed her alongside big-name actors, namely Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron. Eventually, Monroe landed a small part in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring (in a role affectionately called “Beach Girl”) and featured in the Jason Reitman film Labor Day, which also starred Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet.
Monroe’s true big break came in the horror genre, with 2014 proving an exceptional year for her by solidifying her status as a scream queen. Luckily for her, both The Guest and It Follows feel far more unconventional in their smart treatment of horror movie tropes. The former combines tension and comedy in a story that simultaneously embraces and subverts the expectations of movies featuring lone ranger killers. The latter, on the other hand, presents an almost unrelenting atmosphere of suspense, blanketing the film in a spirit of unease throughout.
And in both The Guest and It Follows, Monroe’s performance anchors the narratives. Where we can’t identify with Dan Stevens’s elusive David in The Guest — we aren’t even supposed to — Monroe is our gateway into a hilarious and violent romp. On the flip side, Monroe is also precisely the reason we can’t escape the “It” in It Follows. We feel her dread over this looming, shapeless and nameless entity that seems to engulf her surroundings and consume her from the inside out, all at the same time.
These films then led to Monroe’s foray into bigger budget Hollywood productions, although they are less warmly received than her indie efforts. The 5th Wave and Independence Day: Resurgence share the thematic thread of the end of the world. They are also similarly generic — frustratingly so — and neither film stands out in an increasingly saturated blockbuster landscape. The 5th Wave hardly made an impression at the box office, although it eventually made a worldwide total of $109.9 million and was able to recoup its production budget of $54 million. Independence Day: Resurgence earned $389.7 million against a $165 million budget, but failed to recapture the excitement or glory of its ’90s predecessor.
Regardless of those (rather expensive) setbacks, Monroe featured in six films in 2017 alone. Some, such as Hot Summer Nights and The Scent of Rain and Lightning, won critics over as they premiered on the festival circuit. And where others are less praise-worthy — such as the visually stunning but narratively dull Bokeh — Monroe is not one of the shortcomings in those films in the slightest. When she’s allowed to fill the space of the screen without the distraction of too many explosions and the need to coldly bark immovable lines at other characters, she naturally captures our attention.
By the end of 2018, Monroe will have released three more features: Hannah Marks and Joey Power’s Shotgun, Federico D’Alessandro’s Tau, and Neil Jordan’s The Widow, which reunites Monroe with her 5th Wave costar Chloe Grace Moretz and puts her in the presence of the incredible Isabelle Huppert. The aforementioned Variety article further reports that she has just wrapped the horror movie Villains with Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgard.
The next couple of years already feel like Monroe’s time to shine, and that is far from a bad thing.