The Orphanage Director Reunites Children and the Supernatural in A Monster Calls

By  · Published on November 19th, 2015

Focus Features

The Orphanage is one of the best horror films of the millennium, but don’t just take my word for it. Director J.A. Bayona’s feature debut is a terrifically eerie and atmospheric tale that blends themes of grief and guilt with the fantastic. His follow-up, The Impossible, trades supernatural chills for natural disaster thrills and once again discovers real emotion at the heart of the story.

Bayona’s finally back with a third feature, and while it’s not due into theaters until late next year the first teaser has just been released. A Monster Calls finds the director in familiar waters – children, grief, and the supernatural – and adds storytelling, fantasy, and the always topical issue of bullying into the mix. The film stars Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Geraldine Chaplin, and Liam Neeson as the monster.

Check out the first teaser and official synopsis for A Monster Calls below.

A visually spectacular drama from acclaimed director Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”), based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel. 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) attempts to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that explore courage, loss, and faith.”

We’re in.

There are shades of Where the Wild Things Are, but Patrick Ness’ script (from his own novel) presumably zeroes in more directly on young Connor’s growing grief as he deals with the impending death of his mother from cancer. The monstrous world isn’t somewhere he escapes to, it’s a place (and a creature) that forces itself on him. Between his mother’s illness and his schoolyard harassment Connor is already facing intense struggles, but they’re given a literal face in the form of a giant, tree-shaped Neeson.

Ness’ novel is a critically-acclaimed bestseller geared toward the YA crowd, and it appears to be only the first of his books being adapted for the screen. His Chaos Walking trilogy is in development with some pretty big names attached – Robert Zemeckis is set to direct and Charlie Kaufman is co-writing the script. He’s also working on a TV series called Class which is a spin-off of sorts from the venerable Doctor Who.

A Monster Calls reaches into theaters October 2016.

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.