Indie UK Sci-Fi Thriller Opens Theatrically October 29
Author: Richard Pusateri
Source: Magnolia Pictures
Official Movie Site: monstersfilm.com (US), monstersthemovie.com (UK)
Special Thanks to Brandon Nichols
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details for a new movie.
Magnolia Pictures’ new movie, MONSTERS, opens in Los Angeles and New York theaters this Friday, October 29th. Visit the official MONSTERS website for a regularly-updated list of cities and theaters where the film will be playing in the months to come.
SPOILER ALERT (Part 2): I am going to spoil this movie for you with this breaking news – MONSTERS isn’t much of a monster movie, per se, and I don’t think the few monsters in MONSTERS are the titular monsters. I think people are the monsters in MONSTERS. Now, don’t think this is a negative review, I liked this movie; it is beautifully filmed and consistently engrossing. It just isn’t really about the giant monsters.
If you want to see a graphic, giant-critters-on-the-loose monster movie, keep looking. Not to say this low budget film is bad, it just has an odd title for a little film with a simple story about a couple (Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able) trying to flee from Mexico back to the United States.. with alien monsters lurking in the landscape. I feel safe calling this a little film because the couple trying to return to the United States is the entire cast. That’s right; the cast is two people. Actually, the end credits list dozens of names but apparently they are more like extras with speaking parts. While very convincing, the rest of the people in the movie flit past, speaking apparently improvised lines in Spanish.
One of the most interesting things about MONSTERS is how much writer/ director/cinematographer Gareth Edwards gets up on the screen with a reportedly miniscule budget. According to production notes, Edwards lead a cast-and-crew of four (McNairy, Able, a sound recordist and a “fixer”) through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala to loosely plan each day’s shooting based on what they found available for locations. Much dialog was improvised. The real achievement of MONSTERS was the full realization of Edwards’ vision. The artistic drive and desire to make a quality film transcended the financial and hardware resources limitations. Edwards also served as production designer and visual effects director.
We seem to enter the story after most of the “monster action” has already happened. We learn about this in a terse two or three sentence of exposition that opens the film. The introduction tells us the U.S. has accidentally let monsters from another planet loose in Mexico and that area is quarantined. For a long time, nothing else happens monster-wise other than some hazy TV news footage showing in the background.
The characters accept the presence of the giant aliens. The locals just try their best to persevere and live around the inconvenience of the aliens and the quarantine. The two Americans are so preoccupied with their challenge of re-entering the U.S. without passports, they almost seem blasé about the monsters.
Most of the “monster action” has already occurred, occurs in the distance, is seen in hazy, blurry television imagery or is simply just out of sight. With scaled down visual effects, the sound design became more important.
MONSTERS is a road movie, where the two characters grow as the travel and learn more about themselves by the last scene. However, there seems to be subtexts that the characters are barely share with the viewer. There is a U.S. Military presence in Mexico that resonates of current military patrols in foreign countries. We meet our two cast members and soon they are struggling to return to the U.S. by extra-legal routes that resonate of real life struggles of people trying to enter the U.S. illegally. Military presence suggests allegory to US power or adventurism abroad. The reaction of the U.S. to the monsters in Mexico putting up a giant wall could suggest the over-reaction to terrorism or at least using terrorism attacks as pretext to increase more control over the population or immigration.
I enjoyed MONSTERS with its internal illogical developments and geographical bloopers (like the characters being in northern Mexico but taking in the sights of Guatemala). But I think most Sci Fi Japan readers might not enjoy the simple story, the slow pace, the subtle socio-political subtext or the lack of giant monsters thrashing cities.
For more information, photos, artwork, and video clips from MONSTERS please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan: