Monsters – Review

Monsters (2010) 

Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Whitney AbleScoot McNairy.

When reviewing a film like Monsters you can’t help dealing with 2 things: the film, of course, which is essentially a road movie with some added Alien Monsters. And then you’ve got the making of the film itself, which is the issue everyone has been talking about (and that’s somehow even more interesting).

The budget of “Monsters” is reported to be under $500.000, shot with a camera in the region of $15,000, which in Hollywood wouldn’t even be able to cover the rental of the main camera for a week. And yet Gareth Edwards has been able to come up with movie which looks like any of those blockbusters out there, if not even better.

His background is from Graphics and Visual effects and it clearly shows. Here we are dealing with somebody who really knows the tricks on his trade. There’s hardly a frame in the film which hasn’t been treated or altered in some sort of subtle way: whether it’s just in the grading and colour of the pictures themselves which really makes it look and feel like any feature films out there, or whether it’s a detail way off in the background (an helicopter flying in the distance, the wreck of a tank, smokey ruins) and finally, obviously, the title’s ‘monsters’ themselves (though this ones, are the more showy and, to a degree, less successful Visual effects).

Gareth Edwards is very aware of the limitations of his trade too. His handheld camera moves in such a way that he’s always able to diguise his effects and trick the audience. In the best tradition of great movies which have monsters in them (Alien, and to a degree, Jurassic Park and even Jaws), he wisely keeps them well hidden to the audience for most of the time (the monsters are only seen at night times or on TV newscasts), thus creating a sense of foreboding and adding a lot more tension to the story.

Unfortunately as a film, “Monsters” is a lot less groundbreaking. For some reason it has been compared to District 9, but it has neither the inventiveness, nor the humor, let alone the high concept and underlying subtext of Neill Blomkamp‘s sci-fi from 2009 (which I loved, by the way).

The story of Monsters is pretty simple. Right a the beginning a series of captions tells the following: Six Years ago…. Nasa discovered the possibility is alien life within our solar system. A space probe was launched to collect samples but broke up during re-entry over Mexico.  Soon after new life forms began to appear and half of the country was quarantined as an INFECTED ZONE. Today… The Mexican and US military still struggle to contain ‘the creatures’…

From there onwards the film is essentially a road movie where the two main characters have to reach the US border, crossing the so-called infected Zone in Mexico. That’s pretty much it.

Gareth Edwards is clearly in love with his pictures, since he spent a lot of time cleaning them up, but he probably forgot about pacing them. It is a fairly slow film which seems to be more interested about creating an atmosphere than actually telling a good story. However the film is short enough to just about get away with it. The acting is pretty good (with however little material they’re given) and the non

He’s clearly an interesting director: he’s good a framing his action, directing his actors and creating the right type of mood, so it will be interesting to see what he can achieve with a proper budget (and a better script) in the future: unfortunately it looks like he might be getting stuck with Monsters, as it just emerged that he will be directing a new Godzilla Movie (he’s been quoted in Variety saying “you just don’t say no to Godzilla”): not very imaginative, I’d say.

So now we’re only left to see how Hollywood will respond to a film like this which looks like any multimillion dollar flick, and yet it costs just a fraction of what Michael Bay would spend in taxis.

In the end, this will be the only legacy of this film: it cost nothing to make andyes  it’s watchable. I’ll take this over Transformers anytime.


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