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Monsters or simply beings?

  • Feb 25, 2011
Rating:
+3
*** out of ****

I don't usually like monster movies, and that is because they deliver no surprises whatsoever. They're about giant monsters attacking people and places (preferably large cities) and nothing more. The genre has gone stale. I recently saw a movie called "Big Man Japan"; a film which put a funny twist on the now-dead genre of film. Now we have an even littler film called "Monsters", which puts a rather serious twist on the subject. The film is a romantic drama at heart; and it only really classified as a "monster movie" because there are indeed giant monsters thrown into the mix. But what keeps the film from being boring and generic is the fact that it's actually less about the monsters and more about the relationship between the two central characters. Plus, there's a lot of Mexicans; which is always a good thing. "Monsters" was made on a relatively low budget and it shows; but in a good way. The film doesn't feel any lower in budget than most films; and in many ways, it beats its own little genre and becomes a full-out romantic drama. You see, I like that. I like that a lot. This film is a pretty unique one, and it's also one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Since I do like a good indie film once in a while, I've got to search hard for the good ones. There's a lot of crap that comes out of indie films these days, but then there's little gems like this. But "Monsters" is a gem that not everyone will find accessible. I know people who have complained about the lack of monsters, although frankly, I don't see why they are complaining. The film does not advertise itself as a great big monster movie, but rather the drama that it is. My advice is to approach the film knowing that it's not going to be your average monster movie. It shouldn't even be called a monster movie to begin with, if you were to ask me. I say this because monster movies are empty, and "Monsters" is not. This film has a heart and a soul; something that a lot of dramas lack these days. Yes, I enjoy the twist that was put on the genre, and I enjoy the spectacle involved. At times, the film could even be fascinating. Take it as you will, but I liked what was done here. This is a good movie all-in-all, and I think it needs to be seen. Take my word for it; this film is not boring, and it's not forgettable. It's solid, and that's all there is to it.

Aliens have made themselves at home along the U.S.-Mexico Border. This makes the areas within "Infected Zones" for the time being, and this causes panic to anyone in the surrounding areas. Enter two border trekkers Samantha and Andrew. The two unlikely humanoids find themselves scouting for refuge as well as survivors; while trying to find their way out of the border in the process. The entire film is a road-trip-romance; which is kind of odd considering the fact that in every area, there's at least one giant-ass Octopus Alien around the corner. But it works, and the story is effective. Though not a lot happens if you were to put it in words, the experience that this film offers is very worthwhile. Instead of making an action film within itself, the film decides to study aliens in a rather caring and affectionate way. The aliens are not villains; they are merely residents of the world. And as always, the humans are the bad guys here since we want them out. The film has a familiar theme; but it is a theme that never becomes the main focus of the story. What seems to be the focus here is the romance that builds up between the hero and the heroine. I kind of liked how everything worked out in the end, and I do conclude that this is a well-made movie. The only problem I had with it was that at times, it felt as if the thing dragged out a bit longer than it should have. But these were only momentary encounters with the flaws; and everything else was rather bearable. The film is not for everyone, but I like the background that there is to it. This is a strong movie; one that will find a good audience in time. Just don't expect the film to have no story and feature a lot of giant monster attacks, because you will be disappointed. This is a crafty drama more than it is a sci-fi film, and I have no problem with that.

Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy provide two very strong performances for this film. They are the only actors I will speak of because frankly, they're the only ones who really matter. Able is good because of her character, while McNairy is good because he dons a likable sense of naivety. I like the characters that each actor portrays, and the romance is actually fairly believable. Needless to say, at times you can kind of tell that these people aren't exactly familiar with this kind of acting. But as with all the movie's little flaws, these moments are scarce and short-lived. I don't have much problem with this film or its actors, since there's some good talent to be found here. It's nothing memorable, but I admittedly appreciated the effort.

"Monsters" is romantic, tense, dramatic, and at times, beautiful. There's a certain charm to indie films that seems to shout "Screw money, we're going to make some damn good low-budget art", and this film seems to have that quality to it. It doesn't seem to care about huge effects, and seems to focus more on the plot and characters. The plot itself isn't perfect, but as low-budget movie such as this, it doesn't need to be. Gareth Edwards deserves some considerable credit for making a film like this on a low budget and still making it genuinely good enough for a viewing. He has not made a great film quite yet, but I'm interested to see what else he has planned. He directed, wrote, designed, and did the visual effects for this film. Thus, he was very involved. It's almost as if he really had to make the film. I know how it feels to have a dream project. We all do. It's a good thing that "Monsters" was eventually made, because this kind of brilliance should not be locked away for all eternity. As it turns out, the film is not only interesting on a conceptual level; but also visually and emotionally. The cinematography in this film is very good, even for an indie film. The shaky camera work actually makes this film kind of atmospheric, and given the circumstances, it kind of needed all that extra flare. The film does not make use of music to be atmospheric; but rather emotion and insight. The aliens in this film are not seen as evil, but then again, when are they ever? This is not your average alien invasion film, mostly because it doesn't want to be one of those movies. "Monsters" is what it is; good indie filmmaking. I appreciate the film for what it is, and I hope that you can too. It's not made for everyone, but if you like the film, then that's mighty good for you.

You shouldn't have to have a real big budget to make a successful drama; nor should you have to have much money to make a good monster movie. "Monsters", in spite of its name, is not a monster movie at heart. It is a touching road romance, complete with giant alien octopuses and an epic, climatic smooching scene near the end. Yes, it's not totally original. But what are most indie films for? I assume that this film will get some recognition for being as low-budget and genuine as it is; although a lot of people will not enjoy it. Some will even call it boring. Me, I think it's good. I think it's something different, kind of cool, and most certainly unique. Not a lot of movies like this can be this good, and in many ways, this is a more successful drama than most. I'm hoping that this isn't the last we see out of Gareth Edwards, since he obviously has some good talent in him. Here, he has taken two genres, molded them together, and made a pretty good movie out of it all. "Monsters" may not be perfect, powerful, or particularly compelling; but it is somewhat moving as far as its little premise goes. Just don't expect a lot of monsters, because in that case, this movie does not deliver. What it does deliver is a unique cinematic experience; a film that aims to surprise the audience in either a good way or a bad way. Whether you like the movie or not, there's a lot going on artistically about the film. I looked at it and said "Wow. This is a near-ingenious little movie." To some, I imagine it will be ingenious. But to me, it's good; and that's all it needed to be. I like it for what it is, and while it's not great, it's good enough for me. For some solid filmmaking all-around, I recommend "Monsters" to most of you reading this. That's all folks.

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February 26, 2011
Another one I have sitting next to me I need to watch, great review.
February 26, 2011
Jesus. What ELSE do you have sitting right next to you?
February 27, 2011
You would be surprised, right here in this room next to my computer is a stack of recent purchases I need to watch.
March 13, 2011
I am the same way. LOL!
 
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More Monsters reviews
review by . July 18, 2011
posted in SF Signal
Monsters review: Spoiler, warning or praise, you decide
Reviewing Monsters is an almost impossible task because I have to include a spoiler straight away (in the third paragraph of this review). Or maybe you can consider it a warning, because armed with this knowledge you might decide to avoid this film. Or maybe it's praise, because this knowledge might make you want to see the film. Whatever you call it — spoiler, praise or warning — it's something so integral to the film, I really have to mention it. But I don't think that giving you this information …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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