As a young man, Harry Turner was underprivileged, and struggled to support his mother. He poured over horror stories in the local bookstore where he met Margaret, poised to marry into an affluent family, at the urging of her parents. After an uncomfortable exchange in the bookstore, she agrees to a date with Harry at a haunted house.
There she witnesses a horrifying monster, seemingly out of place, but she never reveals this to Harry. Despite her family’s urging she marry for wealth, Margaret can’t deny her feelings for Harry and their life together begins. Years later, with two young girls and the weight of middle class life on their shoulders, Harry declares he wants to build a haunted house in their backyard.
As she and the girls offer their assistance, Harry’s behavior becomes more troubling and obsessive. Shaken by her daughter’s insistence that a creature came to her window in the night, and frightened by what she discovers, Margaret hides her unexpected third pregnancy until she discovers that Harry’s project is merely a distraction from a very real horror; he has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
Six years after his Harry passes, little Noah, their third child, feels the brunt of his father’s absence. Wrestling with single motherhood, Margaret acquiesces when their former neighbor/high school theater teacher approaches her proposing they recreate the family’s haunted house, a joint effort to secure funds for the theater program and to lift the crushing financial situation of the Turners.
Excluded from the production by his mother and sisters, Noah receives visits from a creature outside his window. His loneliness outweighs his fear, and a friendship with the beast forms. As the years pass, the family’s maladaptation in the wake of Harry’s death amplifies as Noah grapples with understanding which monsters are imaginary and which they’ve created.
“A Cosmology of Monsters,” is Shaun Hamill’s debut. In less gifted hands, this story of a family stalked by monsters could easily become campy. But Hamill perfectly blends a realistic story of a family battling the scars of intergenerational trauma and grief with elements of classic horror. While at times truly terrifying, the story of the Turners is painfully relatable, even when the things that go bump in the night step out from the shadows.