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4.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive Little Movie with Very Big Goals, February 22, 2011
This review is from: Monsters Special Edition + Digital Copy [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Monsters is a slightly misleading title for a film that requires and elicits the imagination more than most of its intended audience might like. It attempts to create real characters in a compelling atmosphere. That atmosphere is partly unique from most films because of the hugely significant land octopi walking about just below the United States border with Mexico. This doesn't dwell on the science fiction or even on the massive chaos these monsters bring to the civilized world on a daily basis, but instead focuses on the journey of its two primary characters. Given that the performances work and the environment was just believable enough, the monsters in Monsters are actually quite frightening. There's something about giant monsters that calls upon feelings of awe and fear instead of just suspense, mystery, gore, and the other mechanics of horror films. Monsters could be a modern King Kong or Godzilla, it might even at times work as well as 2008's Cloverfield or 2006's The Host. However, it is boggled down in making a heavy-handed message that is not only too obvious but by the film's last moments it actually seems to back away from making its point fully, either that or it fumbles in making it effectively. The ending is flawed for a lot reasons, least of which for me was the fact that Monsters doesn't bring enough of its monsters to the screen, but that is important to note for those looking for a fast paced action yarn. I forgive that because the movie is overall pretty well done and the special effects, albeit by no means seamless, make due and then some for its extremely modest budget. The film cost less than $500, 000 to make. To say that effort made up for the lack of funds is an understatement.

A deep space probe from NASA crashes into Mexico and unleashes an army of terrifying alien life forms whose rapid procreation is a major threat to humanity. The military answers with strikes against the monsters. Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is a photojournalist escorting Samantha (Whitney Able), a pretty and seemingly unhappily engaged girl whose father has requested that Andrew get her out of Mexico and home. Their journey is the film's arc and it actually works really well microcosmically, as opposed to the big budget alien invasion films we've seen over the years with stereotypical characters and questionable aliens.

Overall, the special effects are effective but at times imperfect. The performances are very strong and the story works well as a vehicle to make the alien invasion believable. The constant feel of the monsters imminent attacks work for every scene in the movie and make the film unique and memorable. It adds suspense effortlessly. Finally, the film's biggest strength is that it is all shot on location. An amazing feat for its young British director Gareth Edwards. He's actually working to reboot Godzilla for Legendary Pictures and given the movies that they fund I'm sure he'll have an extraordinary budget to work with. If he can use his pennies as wisely as he does here and maintain this effective and appealing style, then monster movie fans may be in for a very special treat in a few years. In the meantime, I'm giving a solid recommendation that you see Monsters.
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