Connect with us

Film Festivals

‘Tummy Monster’ review: Dir. Ciaran Lyons [Glasgow 2024]

In Tummy Monster, a downtrodden tattooist (Lorn Macdonald) has the worst night of his life after being summoned to his studio in the middle of the night by famous musician, Tummy (Orlando Norman). What begins as a dream client, quickly descends into chaos after a simple request is refused.

Tummy Monster still.

Written and directed by Ciaran Lyons, Tummy Monster was filmed in just five days. The tight schedule has not affected the final product, with Tummy Monster a slick and stylish psychological thriller to rival those with a much longer shoot. Set within the confines of a small tattoo parlour, Tummy Monster squeezes plenty of claustrophobic tension from its location. The lack of windows or natural lighting infuses an eerie vibe and helps sell the concept of being trapped. Confinement, and that feeling of the walls closing in on you is exactly what Lyons film explores both physically and emotionally. 

Tattooist Tales is navigating a tough spot in his life. He is trying to stay connected to his daughter from an ex, whilst at the same time trying to win back his current girlfriend who has kicked him out. With nowhere else to go, Tales is bunking in his tattoo studio, which actually appears to be good luck when famous musician, Tummy, is in need of new ink. Initially the pair seem to get on well, but after Tales asks for a selfie, Tummy gets weird. Believing obtaining that selfie will somehow fix all his troubles, Tales goes to extreme lengths to get Tummy to agree. But Tummy isn’t easily swayed. 

Much of Tummy Monster’s svelte eighty-five minute runtime is the partnership of Macdonald and Norman on screen. The pair work fantastically together, egging each other on, pushing one another and achieving gold standard performances. As Tales, Macdonald carries the bulk of the story and emotional heft, and despite his abrasive attitude, is a character that the viewer initially connects with. Tales is a man on the verge of collapse and watching him being toyed with is both horrific, but hard to turn away from. As more truths are revealed, it becomes harder to fully sympathise with the character, but it is this that makes Tummy Monster work so well. Films don’t need to have likeable protagonists to work, and it is Tales’ flaws – insecurities and vain male pride – that are integral to Tummy Monster’s success. 

On the flipside to Tales, Tummy is cool and collected. As Tummy, Norman’s performance is more calculated and considered. He inhabits the role of arrogant musician expertly, but is sure to include just enough extra in his performance to have viewers questioning exactly who he is. There is a slight ambiguity to Tummy. Is he merely a star with an ego, or is there something more sinister at play? Does Tummy’s need for control and chaos stem from being bored of being rich and famous, or could he be a manifestation of God of Mischief Loki? Lyons never expressly confirms either idea and leaves the interpretation to the viewer. 

Woven through the thick tense atmosphere is a jet black vein of comedy. Tales’ fate escalates to levels so absurd that they become funny. Laughing at someone as their life disintegrates around them is not kind, but thanks to the tightly written script and excellent performances, the humour shines through. The ability to laugh in the face of adversity is a key coping mechanism and it’s utilised to maximum effect in Lyons’ feature debut. Featuring a chant repeated so often that, like the tattoo Tales does for Tummy, will be permanently inked into your brain, Tummy Monster is proof that independent film is well worth investing in. 

Tummy Monster

Kat Hughes

Tummy Monster


Tummy Monster’s punk rock mean-spiritedness is certainly an acquired taste, but those that enjoy it will relish every morsel.  


Tummy Monster was reviewed at Glasgow Film Festival 2024.

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


Latest Posts


More in Film Festivals