First time director Gareth Edward’s has described his high-concept but low budget movie Monsters as “if movies such as Cloverfield or Godzilla is 9/11 then Monsters is Afghanistan and Iraq”, it is this line alone which caught the attention of the general public and made people turn on this indie monster movie in a good way. Shot for only a shoe string budget of £15,000 and film across Mexico, Guatemala and Belize really sets it’s self apart form the big Hollywood mainstream.
Samantha (Whitney Able) is stuck in Mexico, and so is Andrew (Scoot McNairy). Two different people in the same city for two different reasons only brought together by the fact that Samantha’s father is Andrew’s boss. After a brief meeting Andrew is tasked to bring Samantha back safely to America, the only problem is that after buying a ferry ticket which turns out to be a dead end the two must travel through the ‘Infected Zone’ It is established at the beginning of the movie that a NASA space probe collecting samples crashed landed in Mexico releasing spores over the vast woodland, and it is from these spores that the extra terrestrials seeped out from. Whilst they are apparent and somewhat scary these giant hundred foot creatures are roaming around they are not the central theme of the movie and only lay in the background. What Gareth Edward’s focused on was the relationship between Samantha and Andrew as they discuss trivial things such as dolphin’s belly buttons.
The brilliance of the movie is this key theme of the film not focusing on the aliens but rather on the relationship of the two characters who try to get home. This movie could have easily been set in Iraq and Afghanistan and had little cut form the script, and it would still have been a fantastic movie. But the movie also has a political subtext as it intertwines social class as well as immigration to further blur the lines.
What Gareth Edward’s has created on only his bedroom laptop is spellbinding. There is no big reveal of the monster at the end ala Cloverfield and whilst Cloverfield is still a fantastic achievement, Monster’s goes leaps and bounds with the enjoyment of the narrative.
Scoot McNairy and real life girlfriend Whitney Able do a terrific performance as two people who have different lives which are pulling each other away form the other. Both characters had to improvise the whole script whilst acting opposite unaccredited actors. Whilst this use of improvisation might seem lazy on Edward’s behalf the end result feels natural and believable.
In Matt Bochenski’s review for Little White Lies magazine (#32) he commented on the apparent connection the movie has to Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 (2009) however Bochenski said that it has more connections to Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009) in terms of it being a British sci-fi movie with an American cast. Bochenski is definitely on to something. If you enjoyed those two movies you will enjoy Monsters, however don’t go in expecting the new Cloverfield, go in expecting a movie which crosses into many genres whilst staying true to it’s central theme.
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