This is the movie that was reportedly made for £100,000. It had a crew of just four, two paid actors who were effectively ‘holidaying’ with the director/producer/writer/special FX whiz kid (he did the lot), and a support cast of locals rumoured to be hired on location. Oh, and the other known ‘fact’: Gareth Edwards (the aforementioned whiz kid/writer/director/producer) created the effects on his own, in his bedroom, once the filming was complete.
Add all this together and what you expect to see is a patchy, naff, cheap, novice debut movie. This is certainly not the case with Monsters.
I actually found this a rather difficult film to review, sit back, and indeed enjoy, because I spent so much of the time thinking about Mr Edwards in his bedroom working on his laptop or out on location with his tiny team of guerrilla film-makers. And this says much about Monsters. I should compare this experience to when I first watched Moon – before the film I was all too aware that it was the debut movie made by David Bowie’s son for very little money (albeit vastly more than Edwards had for Monsters) and yet I escaped into Moon and forgot all about the back-story within seconds…
So what of Monsters? I certainly enjoyed it and there is so much to celebrate, not just from what Edwards has achieved practically on his own, but in the fact that he tells a good story very well.
It is set 6 years after alien spores have hatched in South America and the aliens are now terrifying and destroying residents in the ‘infected zone’. A young photographer has to escort the boss’ beautiful daughter out of the zone and across the US border to safety. What you get is part race-against-time, part almost romance, part road movie, and part action thriller, all wrapped up in a neat modern sci-fi bubble.
Obvious parallels with District 9 or even Cloverfield are expected, but although it is an aliens in residence movie set across a decimated landscape caper, it is not like either of these. It is subtle, moving, sad at times, and the unexpected regularly happens. I certainly enjoyed it, perhaps more on reflection than at the time.
Despite the title, it is not a movie about monsters. It is a movie that sets out to teach us a little about ourselves. Yes, there is the occasional lean towards cheese and some of the lines are far less polished than the directing and effects, but this is forgive and forgettable.
The monsters themselves are huge, tentacled octopus-like beings that leave a path of destruction in their wake. Edwards is fleeting and subtle in his revealing of the monsters, we initially catch ill-lit glimpses of them and let our imaginations fill in the rest. Only at the very end do we have prolonged exposure to them, and this is a delightful, tender, touching scene, which closes the movie with a magnificent twist in our emotional reaction. Excellent stuff.
A word on the actors – terrific! I’d not heard of either of them before this movie, but they are superb and both destined to shine in their careers to come. Scoot McNairy (I know, Scoot!?) in particular stands out, most notably in a scene where he is talking to his son on the phone. Whitney Able is also excellent and the camera loves her.
The more I think about Monsters, the more I am enjoying it post-mortem, making it very difficult to score! Can I recommend it? Absolutely. Is Gareth Edwards a rising star with a massive future? You bet. Will you love Monsters? Maybe love is too strong here, but certainly appreciate it and later it will stay with you; the memories will be good.