Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able
RunTime: 1 hr 34 mins
Released By: GV & MVP
Rating: PG (Some Coarse Language)
Day: 20 January 2011
In 2009 NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system.
A probe was launched to collect samples from Europa, Jupiter’s moon, but crashed upon re-entry over Central America.
Soon after, new life forms began to appear there and half of Mexico was quarantined as an INFECTED ZONE.
Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain "the creatures"...
Our story begins when a US photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) agrees to escort a shaken American tourist Sam Wynden (Whitney Able) through the infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.
Expectations are quite often crucial to how much one ends up appreciating a movie, and nowhere is that more evident than in the low-fi movie “Monsters”. Don’t go in expecting a big shoot-em-up humans-versus-aliens movie a la “Independence Day”, not even a downsized survival tale set amidst an alien invasion a la “Skyline”- rather, think of it as a road movie set against a post-apocalyptic landscape. Indeed, “Monsters” can just about be summed up in one line- two Americans making their way across the border from Mexico across an infected military-alien containment zone.
If you need to know, nothing pretty much happens in the heart of beast country. We hear some mournful sounds that are apparently alien noises, we see lights in the distant night sky, and we see devastated towns in the aftermath of battle- but as for them actual creatures, you’ll find that you’ll have to wait till the last twenty minutes for these towering octopi aliens. And when they do appear, it’s just in one ‘Jurassic Park-like’ sequence where they attack a convoy of trucks and another where they approach a gas stop our two main characters are taking shelter in.
Even during these moments of contact, there’s not much tension or excitement to be found. There is fear alright, but first-time writer/director Gareth Edwards doesn’t build these final sequences into something resembling a climax. Instead, he fashions them in the same low-key manner consistent with the rest of the movie, which is likely to be frustrating for viewers expecting for some kind of payoff for their patience in getting through the first hour. But as you have been warned at the start, “Monsters” is not that kind of movie.
Not that it is not without its merits- shot on a minuscule budget of US$150,000 over three weeks in Guatemala and Belize among other South American locations, its most significant achievement is that of its filmmakers. Besides Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able, the rest of the supporting cast were all locals hired during the filmmaking process- hence their sense of authenticity. Just as impressive is the post-apocalyptic landscape that Edwards constructs in the movie, transporting the viewer to a surreal world suggested by his tantalising premise- even more remarkable considering the budget he had to work with.
So yes, credit should be given to Edwards for doing almost the impossible, the award winning special effects wizard having also designed the creature effects in the movie by himself. His efforts have already been recognised- he’s been picked as the director of Hollywood’s new stab at “Godzilla” thanks to his feat for pulling off “Monsters”. As for the movie itself, it’s more a road movie than an alien movie, or if you wish, a road movie with the occasional alien. Set your expectations right before you approach this one, for if you don’t, you’re very likely to end up disappointed.
(A low-fi road movie set in a post-apocalyptic world, this is better appreciated as a feat of filmmaking by writer/director Gareth Edwards than a work of actual merit)
Review by Gabriel Chong