Monsters review

Banana Rating: 3 out of 5

When bash­ing out the spe­cial FX for Mon­sters, the com­mute for Gareth Edwards was all of two yards from his bed to his com­puter. At least that’s what it looked like in a recent TV inter­view with movie brain and critic named after a port­able shit­house, Mark Ker­mode.

Some job. I do a sim­ilar thing when writ­ing reviews. Except my meth­od­o­logy usu­ally involves stay­ing in the bed, rather than get­ting out of it. If my arms were longer, like the big tentacles of the tit­u­lar beast­ies of the movie, it’d be much easier. I could prob­ably laze around under the sheets, my wrig­gly arms tapping out a review on my laptop whilst another tentacle gets busy crack­ing open a brewski.

Gareth Edwards has been a lot more pro­act­ive. Which is why he’s a movie maker, and I’m another in a long line of bums writ­ing movie reviews when they can be bothered. Once out of his bed, he took on a hell of a lot for one guy. Dir­ect­ing, writ­ing, and of course, spe­cial FX.

Because of this, it seems almost rude to cri­ti­cise the film too much. How­ever, because I’m a bit of a twat, I’m going to do just that.

A pho­to­grapher (Scoot McNairy) has been tasked to get his boss’s daugh­ter, a daddy’s girl played by Whit­ney Able, back home. Easier said than done, because home is on the other side of the infec­ted zone, a chunk of Mex­ico that’s pretty much off lim­its thanks to the rather massive ali­ens that are now liv­ing there.

Thanks to the budget con­straints, the mon­sters are fleet­ingly glimpsed, or their alien howls drift through the trees, our her­oes look­ing or listen­ing with apprehension.

I wel­come films that are will­ing to leave some­thing to the viewer’s ima­gin­a­tion, but in the case of Mon­sters, the sparsity of alien action left me feel­ing a bit dis­ap­poin­ted. When the mon­sters are off­screen, there is little sense of danger, and the trip through the infec­ted zone — save for one or two scenes — is largely uneventful.

Indeed, Able gets by just wear­ing a pair of shorts and a vest like she’s tak­ing a trip to the local news­agents for a pint of milk, rather than some epic jour­ney across a land stuffed with big scary monsters.

There’s sleep­ing on buses, sleep­ing on trains, sleep­ing on boats, sleep­ing with pros­ti­tutes, and drink­ing tequila in what is essen­tially a beau­ti­fully shot travelogue across a ‘shattered around the edges’ landscape.

When the mon­sters aren’t around, the focus moves to McNairy and Able. And for a couple of people who are actu­ally mar­ried in real life, they have a sur­pris­ing lack of chem­istry onscreen. Their bud­ding romance never really convinces.

And yet, des­pite all the niggles, the film’s hard to dis­like. Edwards has achieved much with a paltry $500,000 budget, and I can’t help but admire his sheer gump­tion. Mon­sters is a brave attempt to do some­thing dif­fer­ent with an ali­ens invad­ing Earth story. The mon­sters them­selves are never less than beau­ti­fully real­ised, their move­ments grace­ful, and rather sad. Even when they’re in a rage, and on the attack.

A good, albeit flawed, debut. It’ll be inter­est­ing to see what Edwards does next.