You’ve probably heard about Monsters by now. It was an indie hit during the festivals last year; praised for it’s special effects, editing and the fact that it was made for the same price as Jr. Bacon Cheesburger and a medium Frosty. Director Gareth Edwards was nearly a one man band taking Director of Photography duties, all the visual effects, the writing, and even Kraft services. Basically, it was Gareth, a sound guy and his two actors along with unlimited helicopter special effects – courtesy of Adobe After Effects. It just goes to show you that movies, good ones, can be made on a small budget. And Mosnters is a pretty decent movie, it just wasn’t for me.
At it’s heart this is a character driven romance road trip movie with some Alien and Mexico / USA border politics thrown in. Six years after a NASA probe breaks up over Mexico, a quarantine over most of Mexico (up to the U.S. border) is in place due to extraterrestrial beings, which look like Lovecraftian nightmares, infecting the area. Yeah, it’s a lot like District 9 with the quarantined area, but, as mentioned, it places much more emphasis on characters.
Samantha is the daughter of a media magnet and has been placed under the care of Andrew, a low level photographer who works for Sam’s father. Andrew has been tasked with getting Sam out of the infected area before it is closed off in a few days. Through an unfortunate thing called Tequila, the best laid plans go awry and the two are forced to trek through the dangerous infected zone in order to reach America. The parallels between what illegal immigrants go through are VERY strong and obvious throughout. In one case Andrew even says something about, “America looking different from the outside.”
Andrew and Sam are very likable characters and it’s easy to root for them both. They both have issues and are very realistic (the performances by both actors are strong as well). I heard someone mention this movie as being like Before Sunrise (Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy) and I think that hits the nail right on the head. The banter, the conversations, the romantic glances are all spot on as the two meet and slowly fall for each other. But unlike a typical romance movie, there is a chance that a monster may jump out and eat them at a moments notice. It’s a horror movie that I will would recommend to those who don’t like the genre, but do like to watch people fall in love.
At then end of the day, as impressed as I was by the greatness of Edward’s effort, I left thinking that the film could have been so much more. And I don’t mean more monsters and more mayhem. I mean more thrills and suspense. At no point, outside of a few seconds near the end, did I actually feel like the characters were in grave danger. It just kinda falls flat – entertaining, but flat. I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for the back story behind the film’s creation most people would probably pan this film.
Monsters is a nice minimalist Lovecraftian romance story, but at the end of the day the behind the scenes info is more interesting than the actual film.
Snore Factor: ZZ