If you’ve read my post on Godzilla over at Must Love SciFi, you’ll know I had mixed feelings on the much-anticipated release. If you’re looking for something a little more thoughtful and ultimately more satisfying, you might consider searching up Monsters. The film won plenty of awards but had a limited US distribution, so I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard of it (though you all are so smart and internet clever that some of you certainly have). I stumbled across this British Indie film on Amazon Prime, but I’m sure it can be found elsewhere.
Here’s the scoop from IMDB.com:
Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.
Director/Writer: Gareth Edwards
Lead Actors: Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
I’ve always loved monsters in general so this was a good bet for me. The monsters (naturally my first concern) are aliens but truly monster-like—huge many-legged creatures that mostly hide during the day and come out at night. They don’t seem to be an intelligent invasion force, more like an invasive species slowly spreading. The “infected” area is walled off and the various militaries patrol the edges. There turns out to be an active season when the monsters are more troublesome. No surprise that the movie begins teetering on the edge of the active season when all the crossings and boat transports close down.
Monsters has the feel of an art film. Actors with names I’d never heard of. Aside from the Monsters themselves, the sets and locations were shot on ‘low budget location’ with no frills or paid extras. It was the kind of production that gets shot on digital film with minimal takes and plenty of ad-libbing and relying on the editorial process to fix things up. And fix things up they did. Considering the storyline, the look and feel seem exceedingly appropriate and actually add to the authentic feeling of the film.
There is an awkward sort of romance laced through the movie. It’s not a love at first or second or even third sight and it isn’t about passion or attraction. It’s more like two sad souls recognizing each other’s misery and making the best of the situation and growing closer through the journey.
The movie does a great job developing the characters and introducing a series of believable complications which put the two in ever greater danger. As they travel they also begin to learn more about the monsters from the local people living in the danger zone. All of this is woven together in a nifty tapestry.
While there is some brief action this is more of a journey-drama, both literally and figuratively. When the monsters themselves appear it’s mostly the brief shots technique to hide how silly they look, but in the final monster scene it’s clear they made the most of whatever small budget the film had. The results might stretch thin under scrutiny, but they were appropriately impressive in my small living room at the end of a good movie.
The ending is not definitive for the characters or the monsters, but it is satisfying for the lo-key tone of the film. I highly recommend Monsters for a quite, thoughtful, and endearing evening watch.
If you’ve already discovered the film, I’d love to know what you thought of it!