by gareth edwards
starring – scoot mcnairy, whitney able
released – 3 december 2010
certificate – tbc
running time – 94mins
movies about alien invasions often prove to be dull forays into individual courage and man’s inevitable victory in honour of his ingenuity and will for dominance over his planet. monsters, thankfully, is a thoughtful journey into how such a situation would affect people who are simply caught in the crossfire, the people who just want to live their lives whilst super powers try to move the world to their own needs.
ambitious young photographer andrew kaulder is on the hunt to catch a potentially lucrative photograph of the aliens that have been causing havoc in central mexico; half of the country has been sectioned off and labelled an infected zone. he’s had no luck, only finding decayed remains beneath the rubble of buildings. his mission is interrupted with the small errand of checking in on samantha wynden (whitney able), daughter of the owner of the magazine he is working for. he is persuaded by his boss to ensure her safe passage back to the states.
as the alien infection spreads wider, their options for getting across the border begin to narrow until they are given no choice but to take an illicit route straight through the heart of the ‘infected zone’ with the help of native smugglers. much less of an invasion movie the structure and emotional territory of the movie rings more like a melodrama set in a war-torn environment. the people of mexico, living on the border of the infected zone watch the tv news reports, as detached from the peril as if living on the other side of the world.
the analogy is not subtle. the film is about the effect a major conflict can have on indigenous people and others caught in the crossfire. it also tries to shed an accessible portrayal of the trials of illegal immigration. the film has chosen to market itself in a similar way to district 9, which could be problematic, seeing as no one asked for another district 9. but could also be problematic as anyone who goes to see this expecting something in a similar territory will be underwhelmed by the film’s ultimate plot, a love story.
what makes the film work on such a fine scale is its execution. much like neill blomkamp of district 9, gareth edwards has cut his teeth as a visual effects supervisor for tv. but he has pared down the scale, much of it feels like cinema verité, even on occasion drifting into mumble-core territory (an easily derided but inherently influential sub-genre of modern indie-cinema); there are no exploding white houses, no tidal waves destroying entire cities. monsters makes you look at the decay and neglect that becomes the overarching horror of such a conflict, not the instantaneous attacks and battles. the aliens themselves are second to the effects of man’s intentions to eradicate. shot on an estimated $15,000 and using minimal crew, edwards has created a world that is no different to the world we inhabit now, and that’s what makes this all the more powerful.
[d w robinson]