Monsters

15 Nov

Title: Monsters
Year:
2010
Director:
Gareth Edwards
Writer:
Gareth Edwards
Starring:
Whitney Able, Scoot McNairy
MPAA Rating:
R, language
Runtime:
94 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.6
Rotten Tomatoes:
63%

 

I thought Monsters was a very good sci-fi flick. Made for under $15’ooo and filmed by a crew of only two people using regular store-bought cameras, editors and special effects software, this is a true independent film, shot on location without permission asked before shooting, and using the people who were hanging out at the locations at the time of shooting as the extras. I love these films, they have the real indie essence and while Monsters isn’t a perfect film it’s still much better than many of its big studio Hollywood counterparts. It looks quite a bit like Cloverfield, and I guess it could be said that it’s sort of like the lesser version of last year’s insanely good District 9, as it manages to effectively mix science-fiction, political messages and relationships. And to be a lesser anything of District 9 is a very good thing indeed.

The year is 2015, a few years after a U.S. probe returning from space crashed and unleashed extraterrestrial life in a good portion of Mexico. Our male character is Kaulder, a news photographer trying to get some shots of the aliens that has, also, been asked to escort his boss’ daughter, Sam, from Mexico back to the States. And to do that they must find a way to cross through the quarantine zone which is bursting with aliens who are spreading.

I liked Monsters a lot. This was shot for nothing in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico and Texas, using just a couple of actors who were improvising extensively and amateurish equipment. And, even though the creatures looked great and the sci-fi aspect of the story really worked for me, and I’m a self-professed sci-fi nut, what really worked was the romance story behind that, the human connection. Because this really was a very human movie set against a very non-human backdrop, that’s why the comparisons to District 9 are pretty much mandatory and, as I said, this one doesn’t reach that one’s level of achievement, because that’s just damn hard to do, but it still stands very firmly on its own two feet.

The political message in this movie would be about immigration, a very relevant topic in today’s world, and, for me, it worked, the huge barrier the U.S. government has built to keep the aliens out resonates tremendously and the doesn’t make any sort of attempt to veil this message in any way. This is a film that was the complete antithesis to its louder effects-ladden Hollywood-backed big-budget counterparts, it was just all very nicely done, the creatures don’t even appear all that much, but their existence helps create a very nice atmosphere in the film that goes along really well with the aesthetic it provides.

This was a compelling movie. Sure, the sci-fi aspect of it all could have been explored more, I will agree on that, but I like that Mr. Edwards gave that much focus to its human leads, he likes having his actors ad-lib their way through a story while filming them with handheld cameras, which will warrant those Cloverfield comparisons. This is just a very different sort of film for fans of the genre like me, and one I appreciated,  the ending was sort of iffy, I guess, but even that totally worked for me.

Plus, you really have to give it to Mr. Edwards for being able to craft all of these effects on a laptop software you and I could buy at the store. He’s evidently a very clever man, the torn-up cityscape he showed was filmed in Galveston, Texas where a hurricane had recently gone by and done much of the work for Mr. Edwards. That’s being resourceful right there for ya.

Monsters may not be the best film of its kind, I guess there were lots of things Mr. Edwards could have given much more attention to, and I don’t just mean the aliens, but also maybe giving some attention to the other humans living near the infected area and not just our two protagonists. And, while the ad-libbing was quite nice, a better structured screenplay with a few more surprises here and there would have been better at getting our attention. But forget that, I still respect this film and Mr. Edwards a whole lot, and I’ll be recommending it on merit alone, here is a film that’s the very definition of “getting the most out of what you’ve got”, and  what he made was pretty damn effective.

Grade: B

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