Movie Review: Monsters
Release Date: November 12th
Rated PG for language may offend
Running time: 94 minutes
Gareth Edwards (dir.)
Gareth Edwards (writer)
Jon Hopkins (music)
Whitney Able as Samantha Wynden
Scoot McNairy as Andrew Kaulder
Our reviews below:
Monsters Review By John C.
*** (out of 4)
Director Gareth Edwards made the Mexico-set Monsters for only $15,000. The finished results certainly don’t look cheap, but the movie is twice as impressive when knowing the back story. The small crew, including Edwards and lead actors Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy, got the help of regular people they met along the way to craft a monster movie like no other.
Six years after Earth was invaded by aliens, half of Mexico was quarantined as an “infected zone.” American tourist Samantha Wynden (Able) needs to get back to the United States, but her only way out is through one of the quarantined zones. She is taken under the wing of Andrew Kaulder (McNairy) – a photojournalist trying to get a picture of one of the creatures. Together they take a journey through no man’s land, as the movie leaves us to ponder “who are the real monsters?”
Although Edwards is a special effects master, he tells a story first and only gives us a glimpse of the beautiful squid-like creatures when it is essential to the plot. This isn’t a horror movie, but in many ways plays as the aftermath to one.
Monsters will likely divide audiences – as it isn’t quite what was expected from the early buzz, but I’ve truthfully never seen anything quite like it before. Nicely underplayed at every turn, this is a strong little film and an original testimony of what can be done with ambition, perseverance and a tight budget.
Monsters Review By Erin V.
**** (out of 4)
With a visual effects background, director Gareth Edwards went down to Mexico with a four person crew to shoot Monsters. Naturally, all of the effects in the film, he added in afterwards. The result is a film with a distinct and true feel, rather than the hyped up Hollywood style that it would have had, had it been a studio picture. The music by Jon Hopkins sets the quiet tone well, and the cinematography is beautiful. Despite the extremely low-budget, it does not really look ‘cheap’ at all – I think I loved watching this film all the more, knowing how it was made.
Monsters follows the story of Andrew Kaulder, (Scoot McNairy), a photo-journalist in Mexico taking pictures of the monsters, and Samantha Wynden, (Whitney Able), the daughter of Kaulder’s boss. After a monster attack, Kaulder is ordered to escort Samantha back to the safety of the states – but when the military shuts down the ferries, this means traveling by car through the ‘infected’ zone.
The fact that the actors are not mainstream, and the extras are just people who were there, (no acting experience), makes it feel all the more real. Like two ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. But, it’s not just a ‘high-concept’ film, where the story of the monsters outplays that of the characters. Instead, it opts to be a very natural character driven story, brilliantly turning the tables and underplaying the rest.
To me, Monsters is a hauntingly beautiful indy film with just the right tone all the way through… and the perfect ending. Very well made – go see it.
Monsters Review By Nicole
*** (out of 4)
Monsters is a low-key sci-fi road trip adventure. Andrew (Scoot McNairy), a photojournalist, and his boss’ daughter Samantha (Whitney Able), are in Mexico to investigate the damage created by mysterious squid-like creatures from another world. The American army has been battling these aliens for six years now, by use of tanks, pesticides and fumigating gases. The aliens, who have wrecked cars and buildings, resulting in human casuality, are contained in what is known as “the contamination zone.” Sam and Andrew need to get back home to the USA through the restricted area. Their journey brings them not in touch with the local people, but closer to each other as well. On their journey home, they encounter the aliens, who usually live in water , but come onto land to lay eggs on tree bark. One starts to wonder, are the aliens really vicious, or gentle giants who didn’t know their own strength? Are the monsters the aliens, or the US army?
What is brilliant about this film is that these questions are raised without showing graphic or close range violence. One feels strongly for the human characters, as well as the Mexican locals. It is quite sad when we see people who lose their loved ones and homes from the alien invasion. But one can’t help but feel for the alien creatures as well, who also want to settle down and raise a family. Monsters could almost be seen as a parable about the need to learn to live with nature, while balancing our own needs.
Monsters is nicely underplayed. It has a certain believability, presenting more as a human story oppose to strictly a sci-fi film. The acting is decent, as are the special effects. Monsters is an emotionally moving, thought-provoking film that is worth seeing.
Monsters Review By Maureen
*** (out of 4)
Monsters is the low-budget special effects movie by Gareth Edwards. For a sci-fi story about alien creatures invading planet Earth, Monsters is surprisingly low-key and story-driven.
Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is a photojournalist on assignment in Mexico following the destruction and devastation the mysterious alien creatures have inflicted on the area. He meets up with Samantha (Whitney Able), a tourist and the boss’ daughter. Andrew’s job is to get Sam safely back to the United States. Their journey takes them through the infected areas and tension filled encounters with the creatures. What they also see up close are the chemicals and other tactics the U.S. army has used to try to contain the situation.
Monsters ends up being a thought-provoking story about the world’s response to an alien invasion. Are the creatures the monsters? The special effects are beautifully done and the story is well told. Monsters is an indie effort worth checking out.
Monsters Review By Tony
**1/2 (out of 4)
Monsters are aliens settled in northern Mexico six years after the crash of a NASA probe. Resembling octopi about 10–20 metres high floating in the air with many phototropic (light-seeking) tentacles, their offspring gestate in what appear to be luminescent bracket fungi. Photojournalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is hoping to capture some of them on film before being forced to evacuate. He is persuaded to accompany his publisher’s daughter Sam (Whitney Able) away from the area, but when they miss the last boat out, they have to trek through the zona infectada.
Like El Mariachi, Monsters is remarkable for having been shot very cheaply in Mexico and Central America using local extras. As a special effects specialist, director Gareth Edwards has managed to produce a reasonably watchable film, somewhere between Cloverfield and District 9 in technical quality. Though the film drags at times, there is some chemistry between the leads, and suspense builds nicely. When the creatures appear, casualties pile up in a relatively bloodless way reminiscent of Jurassic Park. One can forgive geographic gaffes such as the jungles and Mayan pyramids near the U.S. border, hundreds of kilometres north of where they should be. Like alien films of the 50s which were really about cold war paranoia, Monsters is most effective as a satire of American attitudes toward Latin American migrants, exemplified by the ramparts encountered at the border.
Consensus: Made for only $15,000, Gareth Edwards’ Monsters is an original and technically impressive film. Although the slow pace won’t be for everybody, this is one worth checking out. *** (Out of 4)