Since Cannes, screened Gareth Edwards’ Monsters. Hollywood has been going nuts over the filmmaker, who supposedly made the film for a fraction of a million dollars (maybe even as little as $15,000), and some are touting him as the next Neill Blomkamp.
Big, four-story-tall, squid-like aliens that walk on spider legs landed in upper portions of Mexico. This is the Infected Zone and the aliens arrived a long time ago. A photojournalist is charged with taking his publisher’s daughter, in her early 20s, back to the United States before Mexico is quarantined again for the aliens’ frisky season.
The following journey is supposed to be an allegory for illegal immigrants sneaking across the U.S. border. This angle is hammed up too much and overwrought. Also, for a movie called “Monsters,” there are very few pulse pounding chases where folks almost become monster food. The title really should be changed. The journey’s struggles and main characters’ relationship dominate more than rabid-squid mayhem. If the monsters were taken out, it would still be a pretty good road movie that examined economic and class differences. Many non-actors are used to best advantage.
However, some aspects of situations aren’t followed logically or ring false. For example, the newspaper photographer haggles for a low fare on a boat. His whiny tone does not make it believable he’s been living in Mexico’s dirt for many months snapping shots of tentacled creatures and bloody bodies. In another scene, they’re on a riverboat and think there’s a monster nearby. Wouldn’t aiming flashlights in that direction make them easy targets?
However, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able are good and charismatic in the lead roles. Their characters are developed extremely well; they’re persuasive as real people and their relationship is organic. The locations, shot all across South America, are remarkable for their natural beauty contrasted with actual wreckage of destroyed buildings. The cinematography has a loose look without being ridiculously camera shaky. The visual effects (also done by writer-director Gareth Edwards) are executed superbly, especially given the low budget. The monsters look great. These effects give much hope to independent filmmakers as to what is possible with minimal resources. The ending inspires awe and holds the audience captivated. There are scary moments in a couple sections and the movie gets credit for doing something different in the monster movie genre. It will be released in October.