Monsters (2010)
By: Rip on May 16, 2011  | 
DVD
Madman | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 90 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Whitney Able, Scoot McNairy
Screenplay: Gareth Edwards
Country: UK
External Links
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Gareth Edwards' low budget science fiction flick , Monsters, was released last year in 2010 and divided audiences and genre fans alike. For many, the film's title conjured up another Independence Day or War Of The Worlds, leading to inevitable disappointment for those expecting a popcorn munching, action packed alien invasion flick. Given the film is more a road movie drama with the sci-fi element as its backdrop, this disappointment is somewhat understandable. And the film's title wouldn't have helped matters either. But this little shot-on-the-fly independent feature offers something more than just another monster-on-the-loose yarn.

Title cards at the film's outset inform us that some six years prior, a deep space probe crashlanded in Mexico, bringing back with it a potentially deadly extraterrestrial lifeform. This has resulted in the U.S. and Mexican governments erecting massive dividing walls and patrolling what is now an 'infected zone' laying between the two countries. We then meet photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), who is in Mexico working for a prominent publication that's running a story on the volatile situation. It is there that Andrew is contacted by his boss and basically ordered to safely accompany his employer's daughter Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), injured in an attack by one of the lifeforms, back home to the U.S. After a series of unexpected mishaps, the unlikely pair are left high and dry without money or their travel papers, forcing them to pay 'under-the-counter' for a less than safe journey through the infected zone... where monsters roam the earth...

Far from the spaceship and lasergun sci-fi flick, Monsters sits firmly at the more cerebral end of the genre. For want of a comparison, it's more District 9 than Battle: Los Angeles, but by the same token, where the excellent District 9 still has spaceships and action, Monsters is more walking and talking. That's not to say there isn't any action or monsters, because there are a couple of terrific set-pieces involving the titular title characters, it's just that this film is more concerned with the two human protagonists. Now, this is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the personal tastes and expectations of the viewer. Personally, I love sci-fi flicks like War Of The Worlds as much as the next person, but I also enjoy more thought-provoking, character based tales like we have here in Monsters. In fact, this film actually comes off as surprisingly poignant and wasn't what I was expecting at all. And just for the record (and contrary to what I've heard some say), it's not really about the old 'humans are the real monsters' cliche either.

The two lead performances by Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able are wonderfully naturalistic, and it almost comes as no surprise to learn that the couple were a real life item before and during the film's production (and got married the night of the premiere!). British director Gareth Edwards shot the film digitally, which afforded multiple takes and thus, allowed the actors to improvise, which actually results in a couple of the film's most memorable lines. And of course, then there's the monsters. For a film with such a small budget, the extraterrestrials are terrifically realized, coming off in appearance as a cross between an octopus and a spider. As the film unfolds, we see more and more of them until the final reveal, which is breathtakingly beautiful, especially given the denoument that comes with it. It was certainly a moment that stayed with me after the film was over. Director Edwards comes from a special effects background and he's done an incredible job in every other department too. The guy not only handles directing duties and visual effects, but is also the film's writer, cinematographer and production designer. As mentioned earlier, Edwards made the movie on the fly, shooting on location, often without any permission, and got some remarkable performances out of the Mexican locals who, with no acting experience at all, fill in most of the bit parts, basically playing themselves. I feel Gareth Edwards is a talent to look out for and the mind can only boggle at what he might do with a substantial budget.

If there's anything wrong with the movie at all, it can be only that it's a little light on action. But if you like your sci-fi with some substance, Monsters might just do the trick.
Video
Madman's release of Monsters offers a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image, and for a standard definition DVD, it looks pretty good. Reasonably sharp and defined, the film's low budget doesn't show, especially when it comes to the impressive visual effects, and it's only in night scenes where things get a little ropey. Daytime scenes look terrific and really show off the Mexican landscapes. There is an overall brown-ish hue to the picture, but this would appear to be intentional.
Audio
We get a 5.1 DD English soundtrack and it's pretty strong, if only fully utilized during the monster attacks. It's largely a dialogue driven film, but even in these scenes, we still get plenty of nice incidental surround effects. The minimalist music score by Jon Hopkins comes through nicely too, with its lovely main theme lilt staying with you long after the show. Subtitles for the hard-of-hearing are also included.
Extra Features
We miss out on some of the supplements that the UK & US counterparts include, such as an audio commentary and short film, but what we do get is an exclusive 27 minute Q&A taken from the Melbourne premiere, cast interviews running just under 50 minutes, 8 minutes worth of 'B Roll' footage, the film's theatrical trailer, plus trailers for Madman titles, Lake Mungo and Sauna.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Gareth Edwards' impressive low budget debut transcends the usual alien invasion schtick and gives us something quite special that ultimately covers a lot of ground relevant to the world and where it is today. It might not be a classic, but it does come highly recommended. Just don't go in expecting another Starship Troopers!

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