Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Monsters – Review

Monsters – Review

Mar 31, 2011

reviewed by danny
directed by Gareth Edwards, 2010
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I don’t believe I have ever used the word “lyrical” to describe a giant-monster movie before now, but that was first word that popped into my head after watching Gareth Edward’s powerful, touching Science-fiction/horror film Monsters.  Monsters is the story of two travelers who, after a not-so-cute meet, find themselves allies on a hike across a dangerous landscape.  Often in horror films, the personal stories that filmmakers include seem perfunctory and get lost among the more fantastical, high-concept elements of the plot.  In Monsters, the “little” stories drive the plot.  The film explores how personal tragedy and conflict can dictate how we behave even during a large-scale disaster.

The details on what has happened on earth are sparse.  We learn that a NASA ship crashed while carrying evidence of alien life. Six years later, Northern Mexico is under quarantine because it has been “infected” by the alien life forms.  Monsters follows a photojournalist, Andrew, and an American tourist, Samantha, who, unable to book passage to the US when the army shuts down the region, decide to hike to America across the Infected Zone.  These characters, not the giant monsters are the heart of the film.

As the two characters make there way across the beautiful but ravaged landscape (Edwards experience filming natural disaster documentaries certainly shows), we learn through flashbacks about what was going on in each of their lives before they found themselves stranded in Mexico.  Their stories are common and familiar.  Being so, it would be easy for the stories to be simple character development.  Not here.  It becomes obvious that it is the alien crisis that is playing in the background as the characters work through these smaller issues.  All along, the two characters are also growing closer together.  It isn’t a film working its way inevitably to a kiss, but there is always the hope that together they can deal with the pain they each carry.

We really don’t see the aliens for most of the film.  We hear them off-screen, see parts of them during an attack, see them in the distance battling soldiers.  This delay in gratification builds a great deal of suspense.  We wait to see what the creatures are going to look like, how they are going to behave.  When our protagonists finally see the creatures up-close, the film doesn’t disappoint, but it also doesn’t give us what we might have been expecting.

It is strange.  The movie doesn’t have a big twist in the end or any real surprise plot points, but I am wary of giving many more plot details for fear of playing spoiler.  This is a film that it is best to come to fresh because it challenges so many conventions, albeit in a quiet, non-jarring way. All I feel safe saying is that the big reveal of the monsters and the final scene with our characters feature a powerful juxtaposition.  The main theme of the film is revealed in these two scenes.  I think it is that theme, not the plot, that I feel so wary of spoiling.

Lyrically paced, beautifully shot and deeply personal, Monsters is a film unlike any I have seen before.  At a time when mainstream horror is stuck in a deep, depressing rut, I am ecstatic that independent horror can come up with something so fresh and powerful.  Monsters gets my highest recommendation.

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