Monday, November 15, 2010

Movie Review: Monsters

Monsters ***
Directed by:
Gareth Edwards.
Written By: Gareth Edwards.
Starring: Whitney Able (Samantha Wynden), Scoot McNairy (Andrew Kaulder).

Monsters is a different kind of movie about giant monsters invading the earth. The film was shot on the fly in Mexico for around $25,000 – but you would never know it by watching the film. Yes, the film certainly does have an on the ground, do it yourself feel to it – but the special effects when they come are hugely impressive. It just goes to show you that you don’t need millions of dollars to make your film look good.

We are informed by the opening titles that 6 years ago, a NASA Spaceship returning for space with alien life forms crashed in Mexico. Now, giant creatures roam the infected area in Mexico. The US bombs the creatures trying to wipe them out, but they are only so effective. The creatures are dangerous – and fight back.

Monsters though is essentially a road movie with two characters. Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is a photographer looking to get great shots of the creatures so he can make some money. Samantha (Whitney Able) is the rich daughter of McNairy’s boss in Mexico to do missionary work before returning home to get married. After an attack, Andrew is assigned to escort Samantha to the coast where she can board a ferry back home – but things don’t go as planned, and when they miss the last ferry for six months – they decide to hire some experienced guides and go by land – through the infected area.

The movies story is pretty much what you would expect it to be. The two characters don’t much like each other first – in fact they kind of resent each other – but they grow closer as the trip continues. It is a testament to the performances by McNairy and Wynden that they keep things interesting even though the film is not overly original. These seem like real characters trapped in this nightmare scenario – not just carbon copies from other movies of the same ilk.

Written and directed by Gareth Edwards, who has worked in special effects for years, the movie does an excellent job of slowly building up the tension – and there are a few scenes that are truly gripping and wonderfully directed. For a long time, we don’t see much of the creatures themselves – they are mostly hiding or captured in quick shots. But Edwards does show you the monsters at certain points – and at those times, the special effects are truly impressive. The creatures glow, and have the same sort of wispy quality of deep sea creatures. Edwards did all of the special effects himself on his computer but you wouldn’t be able to tell if you didn’t know that. They are as effective, if not more so, than effects costing millions of dollars more in other high profile movies. They may not be quite as impressive, but for this movie they are just about perfect.

The movie drifts at times, and I’m not sure the end of the movie quite works – although I did appreciate the fact that the film does degenerate into non stop action sequences, and kept its dreamy tone intact throughout. Also since the end of the movie isn’t really the end of the story, perhaps it works better than I thought it did at the time. Monsters is one of the better do it yourself movies I have seen in recent years.

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