Gareth Edwards worked with an estimated budget of $15,000 and managed to reach a certain level of epicness that most monster movies fail to achieve with all the fancy digital effects and millions of dollars in budget. The film was apparently made with a crew consisting of only two members. “Monsters” is a spectacular motion picture achievement. In fact it’s probably the best monster movie I’ve seen in over a decade.
The events of the film take place six years after NASA discovered life in another solar system. The samples they brought back never arrived due to a crash that set the alien species free. Giant squid like creatures have been terrorizing Mexico and the United States for years. Areas have been evacuated and even though the world suddenly became less safe, it has reached a point where co-existence is the only option human beings have.
Andrew a photographer hired by a wealthy father is sent to Mexico to bring back the employer’s daughter, Samantha. However, the route back home isn’t as easy as it first seems to be Time is running out and after a series of misfortunate events, the only way to cross the border is to by going through the infected zone or the area the giant squids have made their home. The cinematography is remarkably artistic with shots of wrecked planes, ships and other man made machines in the midst of a naturalistic habitat. In many ways, we are the monsters in this man vs. nature epic. “You can’t fight nature.” Andrew says at one point. Nature evolves in a faster pace than technology. We are reminded of how powerful nature is and how easily it can overshadow all of man’s technical and technological achievements through these images. We think we control our planet when in fact we are merely one of many populated inhabitants.
Both Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy deliver natural performances. You can tell that the film was shot opportunistically. According to IMDB, the film was shot with “little to no outline of scenes and their direction” and both actors had to interact spontaneously. Much like “The Wrath of God”, this style of filmmaking often results in realistic chemistry. Edwards doesn’t rush into any scenes giving his actors the room to breathe and sink into their roles.
Don’t walk into this expecting “War of the Worlds”, “Godzilla”, or even “Cloverfield”, for “Monsters” is an art-house film in every respect. It takes it’s time. Nothing much happens in terms of monster attacks and so on, which is why when they actually occur it’s so much more terrifying. The tension is subtle but the horror is always there. What we don’t see often scares us more than what is we do see. Edwards knows that and takes advantage of this using bloodcurdling sound effects and brief yet strikingly memorable digital effects filled images. “Monsters” has one of the most unexpected endings of the year. The last shots are breathtaking and beautiful, but then you realize that the real ending is much more disturbing than what the closing shots suggest. Pay close attention to the opening and closing shots, there’s a link between them. When you discover what it is, you’ll be thinking of this unsettling ending for days.