Monsters is a low-budget, low-key film that, despite the title, is more of a cross-country journey of discovery than the usual action-oriented monster movie. The events take place in an alternate version of our world, one where a probe carrying samples from space that could prove the existence of alien life, crashed during re-entry. Six years later, half of Mexico has been labelled an ‘Infected Zone’ and new life forms that began to appear after the crash are often seen roaming the area. The U.S. and Mexican military try to contain the creatures, which have caused a great deal of devastation. The ’Infected Zone’ has largely been abandoned and a wall has been built as a huge barrier on the border with North America.
A U.S. photojournalist who captures pictures of tragedy and destruction is told to escort his boss’s daughter to the coast, where she can catch a ferry to North America. But after her passport goes missing, they are instead forced to make a dangerous journey through the Infected Zone to get her safely back home.
Monsters is not your typical alien invasion movie. Those who go into it expecting an Independence Day-type film are going to be very surprised. Rather than a big-budget, special effects laden blockbuster, we get an accidental love story with some impressive scenery and the occasional sighting of an extra-terrestrial. It was made with a small crew using $8000 cameras and digital effects programs. Shot entirely on location, the film extras were people who just happened to be there. The film was shot opportunistically, with little-to-no outline of scenes and their direction.
Monsters is the debut feature from British writer and director Gareth Edwards, who was previously involved in creating the visual effects for TV documentaries. Following on from recent sci-fi movies that tried to take the genre somewhere different, like Cloverfield and District 9, Monsters takes the subtle approach. The title is perhaps misleading considering the creatures make only rare appearances. They are more of a backdrop to the story, while the journey that the two main characters make is at the forefront. It is a refreshing take on this sort of movie and it pays off.
The independent, guerrilla filmmaking approach gives it more of a realistic feel, as does the strong on-screen chemistry of the two protagonists, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) and Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy).Their central relationship is the focal point of the film. Thrown together as complete strangers, they become travel companions and grow closer over the course of their journey through the dangerous ‘Infected Zone’. Off-screen, they were a couple during filming and are now married so it’s clear that the chemistry we see is real.
Monsters is a small movie that dared to think big. It stands up well next to Hollywood blockbusters with their large budgets and fantastic visual effects. The story and main characters are both strong and it’s impressive to hear how the filmmaker managed to put all the elements together and craft such an impressive and unique project.