Wednesday’s What You Should Watch – Monsters
“Monsters” is proof that in this day and age, you don’t need a big budget to make an effective creature movie. Hell, it’s proof that you don’t even need a creative name. I mean, “Monsters”? What could be a more simple title than that? But the real beauty of “Monsters”, and I do mean beauty, is the subtle way it handles its title characters. Because “Monsters” is not really a movie about monsters per se, but rather a movie about two people trying to escape a world that is overrun by fear of monsters. See the difference?
At its core, this film is a road movie, using classic conventions of an unlikely man and woman paired together for survival, who because of their intimacy and the situation, grow close and fall in love. What makes it different from other films is the backdrop. Here’s a brief plot summary. Aliens fall to Earth between Mexico and United States aboard a NASA space probe. Once they grow up, they are big and scary and the military decides to take action against them and essentially quarantine the area using soldiers and a giant wall. A photojournalist named Andrew is hired by his boss to retrieve the boss’ daughter back to America, by going through the quarantine zone. There you have the main characters, two people trying to travel through a zone populated by aliens.
For a film with that logline, it’s fairly realistic. Helping it in that respect is that fact that it takes place on a small scale. We simply are asked to care about these two people and watch them as they try and make it safely to the United States. Because the film is so low budget, we don’t see a whole lot of other people, or action, and until the end, not a whole lot of the aliens. However, almost all of the shots are location shots, which gives it a very real and intimate feel.
But that’s not to say the movie isn’t exciting and won’t please genre fans. There are alien attacks, evidence of alien attacks (one of my favorite parts of disaster movies are the shots where you see the aftermath of destruction, here we get planes in trees), drawn out moments of suspense, and I really enjoyed the way the filmmakers used sound and glimpses of the aliens, to create a sense of dread on a budget of about $500,000. Because of the film’s story, there is no need for huge set pieces of the world being destroyed. In this story the aliens have arrived, we’ve dealt with them in way and they are almost just a fact of like (ala District 9). So the story is more personal than any Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich film, and I think that’s what makes it so refreshing. That tone of this film can really be summed up by the actions of the aliens in their final encounter with the humans. It’s a well done scene that calls into question the title of the film as well as the actions of the beginning and end that make up the climax. Could it all have been avoided with just a little understanding? There are obvious parallels to immigration policies at work here, but I’ll let you form your own opinions. For anyone looking for a sci-fi movie with some thought and real story telling effort, check this one out.