In the wake of films like District 9 and Cloverfield, low budget B-Movie style films which hark back to the golden age of sci-fi cinema have flooded the market. District 9 remains the one to beat, so I was expecting Monsters to be a cheap rip off. I was definitely wrong.
Monsters isn’t particularly about aliens, it’s a drama about two people who are forced into confronting their decisions and choices. Photographer Andrew is tasked with getting his wealthy bosses daughter Samantha across the boarder from Mexico back into America. Trouble is, half of Mexico is in lockdown after an alien invasion. He is obsessed with getting photographs of the destruction and carnage which will earn him a hefty amount of money, and she is torn about her impending marriage. After purchasing her boat ticket to avoid the danger zone for $5,ooo, they go out drinking and sampling the Mexican nightlife. Andrew makes it clear to Samantha that he wants to sleep with her and flirts with her, unsuccessfully. He ends up sleeping with a stranger he meets when he’s out alone drinking, and she steals their passports, making their boat tickets worthless. They then have to go through the danger zone to get back to America.
Monsters is incredibly low budget, the film crew consisted of a few people who would do a days filming, mostly on location without permission, clear their flashdrives to make ‘memory’ for more filming. The film was edited and the special effects were added using off-the-shelf Adobe software. Many of the other people in the film are not actors, found near where they were filming, the script was virtually non-existent and much of what we see was carefully edited ad-libbed scenes.
The impression of the film is that it is incredibly muted, natural and fluid. The actors themselves are together in real life, leading to convincing onscreen chemistry. The film is beautifully shot. The scenery is beautiful, completely natural. The entirety of Monsters is free of a sense of oblivion, this isn’t a horror film. This isn’t a death and carnage spectacle, the aliens merely provide a backdrop to Andrew and Samantha’s relationship. And in the final scene, the Aliens appear to communicate with each other and affectionately entwine with each other, right in the view of Andrew and Samantha, which leads to Samantha’s confession that she doesn’t want to go home.
The aliens stand merely to encourage change in human behaviour, bad and good. The boat vendors inflated prices reflect the darker side of humanity, which cashes in on tragedy and hardship. Andrew is motivated by money and his desire to get the money shot of an alien so he can sell it, throughout the film we see a change in him. From money motivated and recklessly sleeping around to a man who is struggling with a dissolving relationship with his estranged son. Samantha has come from a privileged background and is forced to experience things that she might not encounter in her life of wealth. She wrestles with her reluctance to get married and in the end decides that she doesn’t want to.
Monsters is full of thematic and metaphorical allegories, the inability to cross border into America, the value of destruction, aliens and alienation and human relationships. But don’t get too bogged down in these, it will spoil the film. Monsters is definitely one of the best examples of British Cinema at it’s finest. In a country which seemingly has turned its back on cinema in terms of government and financial support, Monsters is the outsider, the proof that if you take money away from directors, they will find another way to make their films. And make them well. I definitely recommend Monsters, for something different, genuinely touching and interesting, but also as a starting point for amateur filmmakers who can discover the potential of cinema, even if you don’t have a bottomless bank account.
- MONSTERS Sequel MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT Gets A Creepy Teaser (badassdigest.com)
- Our next new film ‘Monster’ starting filming in September announced (johnnylynchblog.wordpress.com)
- Monsters (2010) (weylander5.wordpress.com)