on November 6, 2010
First, I must mention that I did not see this on Amazon, but in the theatre...and that I thought it looked amazingly vivid and epic on the big screen, despite being shot on video.
Second...what a great movie! I knew going in that it would be more about the journey of its two main characters and less about giant monsters stomping humans into the soil. And yet, as drawn in as I was by the former, there was enough monster action to deliver plenty of good scares to propel the movie and that other thing we go to see Kaiju movies for: wonderment.
The special effects, when deployed, are great. Though the design of the "monsters" is simple (and, to be honest, a little too close to a very familiar earth creature), the more you see of them, the more intricate they look. They also seem towering and immense and believable.
The performances from the two leads are not "act-y" at all and the pace of the film feels very natural, lending to the credibility of what takes place. I like that this film is so different from other giant monster movies...the older ones seem very presentational (and therefore unreal), and the more recent ones seem like video games, so geared are they to the attention span of tweens. This one gives us a plausible scenario...and the set-up feels ominous and yet very realistic. Don't expect to see NewGodzilla trying to swallow Matthew Broderick in a cab, or Cloverfield masticating TJ Miller in Central Park: this movie is as much about the creatures *we* are as it is about the things we fear.
on April 28, 2012
Two actors. One filmmaker. Shot on location. Organic characters - and extras. Organic dialogue. Great camera work. Produced for under 500K. I'd call that revolutionary.
This movie just felt "real" compared to most of the green-screen stuff coming out these days. It played like a great drummer - in the pocket with nothing over-the-top. The "simple" and sublime score was very effective as well.
A solid fiver in my book, and a budgetary milestone in movie-making.
on November 1, 2010
I get that people don't like this movie. I myself rented it this previous Halloween weekend, hoping for a good monster movie, despite the costly price tag on my pay-per-view service.
Still, this movie surprised me. I thought it did a better job than most Hollywood fodder at making us care about the protagonists, and while I still expected and hoped for some good monster action once our emotions were stirred, I still wasn't disappointed. It was simply that the message of the film was not one of monster horror per se, and although that was what I was looking for that unfulfilled desire didn't blind me to the value of the film. I think a better question would be, who are the monsters in the film? There are more than just the extraterrestrials.
Within the reviews I have seen comparisons to many films. Prior to reading them I myself found comparisons to District 9 and Cloverfield. The thought of a government cover-up crossed my mind when I mistook the Wall for a research structure located deep within the infected zone while watching the trailer, although I didn't immediately make the comparison to The Mist. I also didn't see a comparison to Apocalypse Now that another reviewer alludes to, but it would be interesting to hear more of what that reviewer saw that I didn't - or I'll just have to watch the two one after the other sometime in the future and come to my own conclusions.
Needless to say, there are many precedents to this film. There is one that stood out to me that I did not see anyone mention, and that is Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker. Both Stalker and Monsters have a Zone that was created by an extraterrestrial event, both have guides through the zone ("coyotes" in Monsters and "stalkers" in Stalker), both are littered with civilian ruins alongside military machinery that has been conquered by the extraterrestrial presence and overgrown by nature - the most striking visual similarity, and both lead their protagonists to introspective insights as a result of their journey through their respective zones.
Now, I tend to give a filmmaker the benefit of the doubt, especially with independent films, that they are at least attempting to be poetic. (Let Tarkovsky roll in his grave, but if the scene of the building being knocked down to reveal a church in the background from The Steamroller and the Violin wasn't symbolic, especially against the background of communist USSR...) So I asked myself the question, what does the film title allude to? Without going into detail to give too much away, I think a theme subtler than others in the film has to do with what happens when nature - including human nature - is left unfettered by the physical and social constraints placed upon it. One of the guides who lives in the zone in Monsters observes that the creatures act like wild animals, they leave people alone if people leave them alone - but they get pretty angry when the US planes come in and bomb them. There's plenty of idealism to be mined there.
I really liked this film. It's not going to be one of the classics in my collection necessarily, so it probably deserves a four personally, but I'm giving it a five here because I think it rises above the dumbing down the majority of American films have seemed to suffer from lately. Or perhaps I'm being too critical - not all films can be more than just entertainment to stave off the boredom of modern life.
So ignore my own existential BS and see the movie. You might find it worthwhile.
on August 23, 2015
I really enjoyed this movie going in with no expectations. This is not War of the Worlds, Mars Attacks, Independence Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Alien, Predator, ... see where this is going. The "monsters" only appear briefly and more towards the end, but it is stunning when they are shown. This is a movie about two people just trying to live, survive, and adapt to what is going on. Life continues for ordinary people. The citizens are the focus, not the military response.
on September 30, 2010
Wow, just wow! For this movie to have been made with only $15k I am very impressed! I was afraid at first by looking at the reviews and i'm not going to lie, I was a little hesitant on renting this movie. But, eventually I gave in and rented it and boy am I glad I did! Yes, it's a little expensive, but its a pre-theatrical release. So of course it will be. For those who don't like the price here is an idea, get a group together and everyone pitch a dollar or two. Anyway, if you like Jurassic Park, Cloverfield, and District 9 then you will like this movie.
on July 26, 2013
Interestingly, Monsters is not what I thought it would be. Several reviews I had read prior to watching it described it as a human drama epic set against a sort of alien invasion. For some reason, I didn't believe the reviews. I thought that with a title like Monsters, it would be more focused on, well, the monsters.
This is not a bad thing at all; quite the contrary, Monsters is an excellent film and one that I am very proud to own. Gareth Edwards did an amazing job with the film, especially given the supposed budget ($800k, speculatively). In short, he does a `monster' job with just a little bit of dough (sorry...couldn't pass up the pun).
I'll start by stating the obvious: there ARE monsters in this film...and they're very inventive, behemoth striders that stand two stories above the average person. And they're scary as hell. Which is one of the reasons I like them so much.
But, true to the previous reviews I had read, Monsters also contains riveting human drama as well. I love stories like this, where the interactions between the two main characters (portrayed by the beautiful Whitney Able and the talented Scoot McNairy) and the people they meet are set against the backdrop of a potentially terrifying situation. This adds more realism to the film and also helps set a more serious tone, which in turn forces the audience to take the movie more seriously.
The special effects are extremely impressive as well; the aliens, as monstrous as they are on-screen, are rendered so well that you can't tell they are computer generated. Add to this fact the attention to detail that the production team used, and you have an instant success from a visual standpoint.
I also like how Monsters is shot, although I think a couple of the scenes might be a little too shaky for some viewers. But the chaos that Able and McNairy endure in the film is captured beautifully with the camerawork.
While some critics thought the film ended a little too abruptly for their tastes, I feel like it ends perfectly. Granted, some of what transpires after the credits roll is left to your imagination, but that's not a bad thing at all. If anything, I feel it adds (in most cases) to your immersion in the film.
Monsters is a low-budget film that does not look low-budget in the least. I wish I had been able to catch it in the theater, but am very pleased to have watched it on DVD. Add this one to your list as soon as possible. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
on December 8, 2011
I love this movie. Six years after a probe fell to Earth upon return, life forms contained in the probe have taken hold and begun to thrive in a large section of Mexico, where the probe fell. A cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through this infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.
First off it isn't a typical american monster flick. If I had to compare it to another movie, I would say it comes closest to Cloverfield in tone, though this one is set in the Mexican countryside not in the heart of a city. The film delivers on several levels. The plight of the protagonists as they struggle to get back home while trapped in a foreign country plagued by alien invaders works to create empathy in the viewers. Unlike most American monster flicks, the action often happens offscreen, with our two main characters stumbling onto scenes of destruction just after they have happened or just as they are ending. This is not to say that the characters don't get to be right in the middle of some action, they do. But it doesn't feel staged to begin just as they arrive on the scene as so often happens in these kinds of movies. There is a world going on around them that has no thought of them, they just happen to be travelling through it, trying to survive. Even the creatures themselves are witnessed from several points of view. Terrible and monstrous, they are also perfectly natural things, with a life cycle of their own. They just don't see mankind as being the masters of the world, but rather as something in their own food chain. After watching the documentary about the making of the film I have even more respect for writer and director Gareth Edwards. Edwards did the special effects on a home computer himself, and they stand up against movies with far, far larger budgets. The special effects were amazing!
This largely overlooked movie is a nice treat for friends who haven't seen it. It's a worthwhile purchase!
on May 29, 2011
The subject of this review pretty much outlines why the movie divided audiences so deeply. There are two types of moviegoers who will hate this film: monster movie fans and road trip fans. Monster movie fans will find the film unsatisfying because, despite an abundance of giant monsters and one scene that is nearly plagiaristic in its mocking of Jurassic Park, it's not actually a giant monster movie. The road trip fans who enjoyed The Motorcycle Diaries will be perplexed and off-put by the inclusion of giant space aliens in otherwise enjoyable and visually striking fare.
Thankfully, this film can not only be enjoyed, but deeply appreciated by those who are willing to shrug off the preset expectations of the genres it mashes up so cleverly. At its heart, Monsters, is a wartime travelogue featuring a social oaf who struggles to find enough redemption throughout the film to earn the eye of the boss's daughter that he must escort through the hostile regions of a walled-off Mexico (plus chunks of Texas and Central America) after it was accidentally seeded with alien creatures by a returning NASA probe. There's not a lot of plot beyond that. The movie is one of discovery both of the real-world beauty of Mexican and Central American rural life and wilderness; and of the fantastic and fictional elements of the alien infestation. This synthesis is the heart of the film. Add to it the remarkably creative work creator and director Gareth Edwards brought to imagining, not the invasion, but the aftermath... and this is one of 2010's brightest gems.
One item to keep in mind when watching this film: what does the title refer to? Is it the aliens? I really don't think so, but the easy answer would be that the humans are the real monsters. In fact, I think the title refers to the way in which every insular group (the Central Americans, the Americans, the aliens, etc.) all see each other. At the very end of the film, there's a moment when the classic monster movie tropes seem to be winning out, and I believe that it's the unexpected resolution of that scene which explains the implicit irony of the title.
Edit, it's been over a year since I wrote this (closer to 2) and I still feel strongly about it. Along with Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth, this was one of the best indie films of the past few years. However, I'm even more impressed now that I've watch the extras on this disk and realized that the dialog was almost entirely ad-libbed. The scenes are sketched out in terms of story arc, but there were no scripts. The actors were just trucked through Central America and Mexico and told what they needed to accomplish in each scene! There aren't enough stars available for me to bump this review up another notch, but know that I want to!
on August 28, 2011
Monsters is a film that was billed deceptively which is why it didn't do as well as it should have in the theaters. At first glance it seemed to be a story similar to Independance Day, where there are aliens being fought off our little blue marble by resilient earthlings not willing to let space bugs take our home. Really what this film was about was two people, thrust together, strangers, who make this journey across a part of Mexico that's been basically taken over by extraterrestrials who are not armed with guns and ships, but are more like a cross between a fungus and hovering squid. The US and Mexican militaries are constantly fighting the creatures in an effort to contain them, as one would try and contain a virus or really big, alien cows. (really, that's what they seem to be. Albeit they get aggressive when provoked, but what doesn't?)
This movie is slow. It is NOT an action movie. It's a quiet film about two people getting to know one another while the whole "alien infection" is really nothing more than background. I knew nothing about this film when I first saw it, but after watching it it has become a favorite. The story is beautiful and I found the actors and their characters very believable. The fact they're not superstars helps focus the viewer on the story as opposed to the actor. It's not a "Tom Cruise," or a "Brad Pitt" movie.
The whole movie was done on the cheap, but the director has cut his teeth in the industry as an FX guy, so the FX in the film are really well done. I was surprised to learn how much of the visuals were green screened in.
Bottom line, watch this film. And it is a film, in the truest sense of the term.
on November 23, 2014
At first Monsters takes on a campiness that crosses between the ridiculousness of a "running from monsters" story to the ever present profiling of everything below the US/Mexican border.
I think that if someone had asked the Mexican Government if they wanted their country, system, culture & people portrayed as nearly Monsters themselves they would not have allowed this film to be made.
Acting? Well, let me say that they are two unknowns that remained that way following the film. But, hey it was a paying gig and people do need to eat!
Directing? Naw, from the film I come away believing that the director never made it to the set.
Story? Allow me to observe that it was difficult not to root for the Monsters, especially in the convince store scene. After all, every living "thing" needs a ;little love. Even if you are a hundred feet high and covered in tentacles! One note of creativity would have to be the quarantine zone - now that did not take much imagination on the part of the audience but it was creative.
Script? Naw, the Monsters had the very best lines! "ROAR"
Production values? Nope, but what they attempted did have some merit but the photoshopping was too obvious. After all big walls do have flaws guys.
All-in-all, a disappointment BUT, so fascinating that I had to watch it twice!
By-the-way, the film didn't get any better or worse in the second viewing. Enjoy?