Monsters (2010)

Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Written By: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Whitney Able
  Scoot McNairy

Monsters is brilliant. An early warning: Monsters it is not about monsters, but about humans. It is beautiful, greatly acted, wonderfully shot and simply an awe-inspiring piece of work – Monsters is an essential watch. Seek it out.

Six years ago a NASA probe exploded when entering our atmosphere and the contents were scattered across Central America. This probe happened to be returning from a mission to seek new life on other planets… and had returned with samples. These samples, lost in Mexico, grew new life on Earth. Alien life…

Scrambling to prevent the spread of this new species, Mexico’s border-system were vastly enhanced and a huge area was labeled the Infected Zone. Despite this bizarre occurrence, life in the country continues as normal, and the American and Mexican military forces are confronted with more and more “creatures” during their yearly migration period.

All this sounds incredibly exciting, but this prelude is never seen – it’s told through news clips, dialogue and hundreds of signs dotted throughout the film. Our story is about two people journeying across the vast and dangerous Infected Zone, looking to escape back to America.

Audiences who expect another Cloverfield or District 9 may be disappointed to find it’s not an explosive, all-out action / sci-fi movie, but instead something much more subtle. The monsters are not the main focus in Monsters, rather ironically, but instead the burgeoning romantic relationship between the engaged Samantha (Whitney Able) and a reluctant journalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy). It’s not an obvious pairing and both Able and McNairy give utterly believable, naturalistic performances that disarm and charm. You genuinely care for both of them.

Stuck deep in Mexico, they have no option but to take the perilous and illegal journey through the quarantined forests and roads. The couple witness the abandoned remnants of a society taken over by another species. Whether deliberate in metaphor or not, Monsters is packed with parallels to our own ceaseless takeover of Earth and America’s inability to fully control their immigration problems. Yet these metaphors, if intentional or not, are thought-provoking and a real surprise coming from a film titled so provocatively.

Messages aside, Monsters is a work of art. It is phenomenally constructed from start to finish, with a real emphasis on “less is more”. Cinematographically Monsters is stunning – the Mexican villages, towns, jungle and dusty trails are perfectly shot, giving a sense of space and desolation. Ruined buildings, destroyed military vehicles and evidence of violent, massive struggles leave a sense of scale and depth other films usually replace with violence. The desolation is greatly impactful and the moments of horror are cunningly done with suggestion, sound and trails of destruction.

Understandably, some may feel cheated by Monsters. The monsters themselves barely feature, suggested rather in creeping noises or humungous shadows moving in the darkness. When they do appear they’re awe-inspiring, somehow beautiful yet simultaneously threatening – and they’re huge. This glowing, towering, cephalopod-esque life-form has thrived, and occasionally the couple encounter them with disturbing consequences. It’s amazing stuff, but it is NOT action-packed or in-your-face – if you expect a spectacular Humans versus Monsters war then look elsewhere (at Dragon Wars, Cloverfield or Avatar, for example) – Monsters is a film with depth and very little violence.

The occasional moment might jar and the ending may frustrate some audiences, but these quibbles are barely worth mentioning. Monsters is subtly grandiose and compelling throughout, but only if you’re prepared for this surprisingly unique experience.

Endless credit has to go to the ridiculously talented Gareth Edwards, who directed, wrote, cinematographed, created the amazing visual effects and was even the sole production designer on the film. It’s a personal project on a massive scale with incredible results. Gareth Edwards is one talent to keep an eye on in the future – his debut is mind-blowing.

Monsters is wonderful. This might seem a bizarre adjective to use for a film about people fleeing a country infested with 100 foot octo-monsters, but Monsters IS wonderful. Visually stunning throughout, believable, touching, well acted, smartly paced, dark, disturbing, occasionally funny, sweet and simply just wonderful. Be warned: this is not a horror film, this is not a science-fiction film, this is not an action thriller, this is not a romance, this is not a drama – this is a surprise amalgamation of all these things. Watch it and be amazed – Monsters is a superb film.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

One Comment on “Monsters”

  1. Rag says:

    What a great film. And HUGELY under rated. I kinda feel that Blair Witch stole the thunder of extremely low budget productions. It’s no real secret that I thought Blair Witch sucked. A lot. But it was successful and grabbed the press as a result.

    Sadly that means that other low budget fliks of vastly superior quality (such as Monsters) that have followed are not worth media attention, cos they were not first. And without the bandwagon hype, they go largely un-noticed.

    I say ‘NOTICE THIS ONE!!!!’.

    I was not only completely engrossed for the entirety of the film, I was completely gobsmacked with the quality and polish that they achieved for the pennies that were spent. It puts SO many multi million hollywood ‘blockbusters’ to shame’.

    The acting and the script were both solid and believeable. The tension ramped steadily and, for me, almost imperceptibly. It was 3/4 of the way through before I realised I was leaning forward with several things tensed.

    Yes, you don’t get to see the ‘monsters’ in any great detail. But I believe it is the better for it. In so many films you see to much to feel the fear. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a film about fearing the unseen nasty. As Mr S said, it’s about the people not the beasties. But when you feel the rumblings through the floor (god bless sub bass) you start to fear for them.

    It may seem a bit of an obscure link… But this reminded me of a Hitchcock film. You are sucked in and feeling the tension well before you have any real idea why you are. And that is DAMN high praise from me.

    This film is vastly better than many I have seen. And I have seen a lot. Don’t bother borowing it from a friend. Buy it.

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