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Less like a geographical reboot of D-9 and more like an art-house Cloverfield or a blockbuster Stalker
foamhands7138 August 2010
While there have been plenty of valid comparisons made between this film and last year's sci-fi hit District - 9 (due solely to the fact that the two films share an admittedly similar global concept; that of aliens landing and being contained within a restricted zone as a forced but entertaining allegory for racial disharmony. There the zone was in central South Africa and here it is the northernmost section of Mexico, the borderlands.) I think the media have missed the much more obvious filmic connections. To my mind this film is in fact less like a geographical reboot of D-9 and more like an art-house Cloverfield or perhaps a blockbuster Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky's epically sparse sci-fi classic). While the concept and metaphor certainly match that of District – 9 the closest the execution sways it further towards a combination of the latter two examples.

Instead of attempting to tell the story of a fictional universe using a number of cipher characters like D-9, this film instead tells the story of its two leads by way of its alien infestation. The titular monsters certainly are an integral force in crafting and driving the films narrative but they are not its real focus, this is where the two films differ. Instead we are made to follow American investigate journalist Colbert who is tasked by his employer to find and then accompany his daughter through the infected zone and into the United States before the beginning of the creature's active season.

It's a sparse plot and one that leads to a lot less action than you would expect, but it does work as the spinal centre of the film. Instead of confronting the creatures at every turn, discovering their origin, their weakness, their queen and then eventually using their knowledge to develop a dues ex machina and save the day like the big damn heroes of every similar film, these two simply exist in the universe like we do ours; as everyday citizens living their everyday lives. That's not to say though that the film is in any way banal; in fact their journey through the zone allows for a lot of stunning shots, shocking stories and silent terror, it's just that these occur in a different tense then we are used to. We are, like the protagonist Colbert, journalists in this world; we follow in the wake of the story, catching occasional glimpses of it from afar but mainly focusing on who and what it leaves behind.

The monsters, their destruction and the alternate world that they destroy are all filtered through the protagonists before they reach us upon the screen. It is their reactions to the events that elicit responses in us and their responses that in turn become our emotions. It is essential that the two leads be well crafted in order for this method to work. Thankfully then, they are; Hitting that perfect ratio of realism, stereotype, flaw and likability. They are the kind of characters that you would happily follow within the comparatively banal confines of a drama and so here, in this realm of heightened stakes, they become doubly interesting. The real surprise of the film for me was just how enjoyable, and oftentimes moving, it was to take this trip with the leads; to the point that by the time the ending rolled around I almost echoed their calls of 'I don't want to go home'. That dreaded disillusionment, the return to drudgery after a distinctly powerful event is something I can really understand but it is something uncommon to see in cinemas. Edwards isn't the only person to be thanked for this though; while his writing is great it's the two lead performances that are really essential and I think these two will be ones too watch in the future.

While I've made it quite clear that personally I preferred the human side of the story - that I could take or leave the monsters in comparison – i know there are many others around here who will not feel the same, others that are in it for the monsters (Spaulds certainly comes to mind). While I wouldn't advise taking that particular approach with this particular film, I don't think any of you creature features that do will be disappointed with what you see – and yes, you do see. The creatures are as well designed and animated as the characters. They feel totally alien to this world yet retain a certain sense of plausibility, as if they could feasibly belong to some other. Their power is also very well handled, being threatening enough in every situation but invincible in none. There is then a consistency to them that doesn't exist in a lot of other creatures, which sometimes feel like they are acting in accordance with the plot rather than their own rules or reality. While this may get some of you salivating I have to say again that well designed or no these creatures are little more than an external force, they exist off screen much more than on.

It is then, an ironically titled film I guess because the Monsters of the title are anything but central. I think the real test should be whether or not you would go and see this film were it called 'Humans'. Those that do, more specifically those that make their way all the way through to the final act, will be in for a treat as the film has a handful of utterly sublime moments. The ending itself was a little abrupt but I think it's pretty clever, probably warranting a second watch. Definitely warranting a first watch.
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Less action than expected, but 9/10 imagery, acting, and direction.
jephbennett1 October 2010
The first 3 reviews said it all. Amazing movie for a $15k budget. Amazing shots and scenery, good plot line, great acting from leads. Decent monsters and action, when it occurs. I'm starting to think it's the soundtrack that makes a movie seem "big". This movie's eerie sounds, and tension building strings draw you in, like a blockbuster. Can't believe this guy wrote, directed, edited and did the efx. A++++

And ignore the whiny babies crying about this and that. They'd rather watch blood pour out of a corpse than a decent piece of acting. As long as you don't expect another Cloverfield, you should be surprised by a unique cinematic experience. ;)
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Satisfying movie, if you get what sci fi really is
BillK31 October 2010
I first heard about this movie in a radio interview, so I was aware that it was very low budget. But lately "sci fi" movies have been all about escalating action to the point of absurdity. Classic sci fi is about people reacting to new/mysterious/dangerous situations. This movie has that, with interesting protagonists. It has echos of Sin Nobre and El Norte, and yes, the context of "alien substitution" echoes District 9. But it's not a re-make, and it's consistently entertaining, with a straight-ahead narrative. There are only a few moments where a shock reaction is telegraphed. A big studio would have made this story into an effects extravaganza. But in my opinion it's more effective showing limited interaction with the aliens.

If you can handle real sci fi -- movies without the excesses of Transformers or 2012 -- this sci fi will satisfy.
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Worst creature feature ever. full of spoilers
i_am_bryony2 January 2012
Where to even start? The 'characters' were so shallow that they would barely ripple of you dropped a rock into them. I hated them both so much that I feel driven to bullet point just how awful they were.

1) Little rich girl in alone in Mexico, seems utterly incapable of wiping her own nose let alone negotiating hundreds of miles of alien infested wilderness. She has the personality and presence of a damp sock.

2) Cynical journalist out to make a name for himself and willing to risk it all, including the life of the aforementioned girl. Luckily for him, his camera seems to have unlimited battery life and is impervious to just about anything. More of that later. He also seems to have an awful lot of money for a guy who doesn't get paid.(see ferry ticket) He is a whiny little cry-baby and a sleaze bag who, when he fails to seduce rich girl, gets hammered and takes what we assume is a hooker, who of course robs him for everything. Except his invulnerable camera.

3) Little rich girl is going to be married when she gets home and is obviously several classes above journo boy and several leagues out of his game. He drunkenly hits on her and she rejects his clumsy and badly scripted advances, yet she somehow feels betrayed when she finds him with the assumed hooker the very next morning, and runs away. Now, at this point she has asked him if he wants to go for a coffee before the ferry leaves and not for her passport. What an idiot! When they realise that the hooker has robbed him of passports but not her ferry ticket, (Which cost $5,000 by the way. Lucky he had that much cash on him eh?) does she call rich daddy or fiancé and say 'send me some money and a hit man to shoot this douche bag'? No, she just shrugs and decides to sell her fabulously valuable engagement ring and risk her life going through the killer alien infected zone with sleaze bag journo and a gang of unknown, untested and un-trusted mercenaries. How can we possibly believe this character? There is some hinting that all is not well at home and she is unhappy with her life, but enough that she would risk it like this? Yeah, right.

End of character assassination for now. So off they both go, encountering exactly one alien up close. It kills everybody but them in a way that's never explained, but it involves some blood. Or none. Depending. Before this, the mercenaries tell them that thealiens won't attack unless provoked, and then start shooting at one when it gets a bit close.

So now they're lost in the jungle, a hundred miles or so from the American border. No, wait. That's impossible, because the jungles in Mexico are in the south. If I were to go into all the geographical goofs in this film then it would take all day.

What we are told is Mexico is either Costa Rica or Guatemala, but they have conveniently decided to deal in dollars and made all road signs in English. Wasn't that nice? Luckily, the camera, which had been appropriated by one of the mercenaries, is undamaged. It's covered in blood and has been dropped from around 30ft while attached to said, and now dead, mercenary, but it is indestructible.

So, they carry on and, luckily again; meet no more monsters along the way. They talk a bit, they walk a bit. They walk some more and talk some more. Phew! Exciting stuff. The one part of the film where they could have encountered a threat or even advanced their burgeoning friendship/relationship is utterly wasted with a quick cut from night to morning and a brisk stroll to the border wall. Except that the wall has been breached and there are no guards or anything! The place must be crawling with aliens. Except no, it isn't. they wander about a bit then find a gas station with all the lights on and a working telephone and call the emergency services to come and save their worthless, dull, spoiled whiny useless asses and just sit there until they come. A monster has a sort of half hearted look for something to eat while they wait, but meets a buddy and they have a minute or two's touchy feely, accompanied by some honking, and off they go. See? If you don't bother them they won't bother you. In fact, you can just stand there and watch the whole thing. Inexplicably, journo-boy doesn't take a picture of this supposedly moving and touching scene. I think we are to take it that he is so overawed that it touches his soul and he lets this beautiful moment be private or something. He'll risk the life of a stranger, pay for a hooker and take pics of dead children for money, but two giant land squid getting freaky? No way, that's out of bounds man! There are just some things you don't do, OK?

A minute or two later the army arrive to take them away and they share a last minute kiss before being separated, hopefully for good. These two should never be allowed to mate. Their offspring would come out flat and made of composite clichés. I have never found myself caring less what happened to the two main players in a movie.

There is just so much wrong with this piece of garbage that it would be impossible to list all of its faults, but apart from the flat characterisations, horrible script, casual and lazy racial profiling, the monsters themselves are rubbish. They offer no real threat and fall in line with the accepted giant squid stencil that was adopted a thousand years ago. Here's the deal with squid: They suck at everything except being squid.

I hated this movie.
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NASA accidentally solves border security with lightbright octopi from space.
g8jedi27 June 2010
OK this gets a strong 7.9 on my trait average scale that I just made up, but on an insanely low budget of something around $15,000 dollars, this film deserves everyone's attention. The plot: NASA accidentally solves border security with lightbright octopi from space. In the first 3 minutes of this film we learn that a probe carrying samples of alien life has broken up in reentry showering larges swaths of Mexico with debris that eventually manifests in giant octopus monsters. The militaries of the US and Mexico do their best to contain the "infected zone" and kill the monsters with heavy firepower. The story starts about 6 years after the monsters show up and the battle to keep the aliens at bay rages on. We're introduced to a photographer hoping to snap a picture of one of the monsters up close who gets roped into escorting the boss's daughter to the coast and back to her Fiancé' after she's injured in a monster attack. The pair, played by real-life couple Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able, are stuck south of the infected area on an increasingly lawless overland trip through central America trying to find a way back to the safety of the States. The post-apocalyptic feel of the areas destroyed by the monsters make for some of the most memorable shots in this film. The Director/Writer/DP/VFX Artist, Gareth Edwards has shot a really beautiful film that revels in guerrilla style shooting and constantly shifting focuses helping push the subtle urgency of the travelers' situation. The monster effects are believable and Edwards deserves due credit for some fun visuals but he successfully directs our attention to the human story rather than letting the monsters be the main character. This is not a traditional action sci-fi movie though there are certainly heart-pounding, jaw-dropping scenes of mayhem and military firepower; it's a character driven story set in a sci-fi disaster monster movie and it works. Don't go in thinking it is District 9 or Cloverfield. It was certainly not what I expected, but that turned out to be a good thing in this case.

Facts from the Director Q&A: -Filmed on a Sony EX3 with a Nikon 50 MM Lens -Used almost exclusively natural light except for a couple tiny LED lights for when it was pitch black -Effects were done in Adobe CS4, editing in Premiere -The majority of filming was shot with just a sound guy the director and the 2 main characters -Look for this to come out in Late October via Magnolia Pictures in the US and November in the UK
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Beautiful Monstrosities
MatthewInSydney2 December 2010
Just saw this last night, and have to say, loved it. I can understand teen boys being offended by the lack of action. And I think a lot of people seeing this film might start with preconceptions about what a 'monster' movie should be, which won't do this film any favours. It's a road movie, a slow building drama, a mystery. I actually liked that the two leads were attractive and likable company, without acting in predictable Hollywood ways (you know, where they are unsure about each other, then have a huge fight and yell that they hate each other, then immediately jump into great sex – I am pretty sure in real life only couples who've been together for a while have good angry sex, surely?, I could be wrong, anyway…). But it was the mystery of the intriguing monsters that got me, and the absolutely perfect resolution. Unlike the current 3D CGI megafilms, where everything is boringly and loudly in your face, this film required the audience to join in and use some of it's own imagination, a bit like Alien you could say (without the blood & guts). And, that last scene was so great – easily one of the most perfectly orchestrated scenes I've seen in any film in the last year or two, and to a large degree because it had the sense to not knock the message over your head. And despite it's lack of gigantic special effects, I really think this is a film to see in a cinema, not on TV – to get in the mood, to wonder what's over the next hill, to peer into the darkness to see, wait, is that a tentacle? Like the main characters, the audience needs to be paying attention. Okay, so not a perfect masterpiece from beginning to end, but right now I can't think of many monster movie monsters I've loved in the last decade as much as these octo-spidey-monster thingies. Beautiful! (and I'm pretty p*ssed that a piece of shoddy Hollywood crap like Skyline is showing in 160+ cinemas here in Australia, while this little beauty is only on at a few)
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Possibly one of the worst movies I've ever seen
tendobear28 February 2012
Man, I'm so irritated with this movie I can hardly contain myself! I read reviews that this movie is magnificent, so I wanted to watch it for the longest time, and I am to say the least completely let down. Utterly boring and pretentious! I watched the entire thing wondering what was going on, after about 30 minutes with nothing happening I decided to just give up trying to enjoy it and just try staying awake. The idea had potential, but really nothing actually happens! You hardly even see the darn aliens that are supposed to be 100 metres tall! It felt like one long soap drama episode with only faint hints of aliens in the background. Also, none of the characters seem to care that gigantic aliens have arrived on earth after decades of wondering if we're alone or not, which should be subject for serious discussion, but all the characters seem to care about is taking photos, gazing contemplatively at sunsets and the possibility of getting off with each other. Oh, and don't give me any of that rubbish that the aliens are integrated with the daily lives of the humans, so they hardly notice each other, if that was the case, then what's the point of having aliens in the movie? Avoid at all costs!!!
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Beautiful movie. A true science fiction adventure at it's best.
wurmik11 June 2011
Not exactly what I expected, but a movie well worth watching nonetheless. It's a story about a journey through zone infected by alien organisms. Where it lacks action, it makes up by amazing scenery. As you follow the two main characters, you see the fight between humans and the aliens from their point of view – on the TV, in the radio, in the scenery all around them. Most of the destruction happened before the main protagonist get on the scene, which really draws you in and it gives you this eerie feeling it just might be real. While you don't see much of the monsters, you can always feel their presence. At the end you can only feel awe, respect and humility towards the huge octopus-like aliens.

The actors are good and you can relate to them. Whitney Able is stunning girl in a very natural way and she deserves to be cast in lead roles more often.

For such a low-budget movie it's amazing how well it came out. I give it solid 8/10 and hope we will see more movies like this.
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Well made but boring
Corpus_Vile1 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
After discovering a galaxy with possible life, NASA sends a probe to investigate, only to have it break up over Mexico on its return. Six years later and half of Mexico is now an infected zone, with huge squid like Aliens roaming the land. America's border is enforced by gigantic walls and the USAF combined with the Mexican military conduct regular bombing raids, and search and destroy missions. In this arena, is Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), a rather world weary and cynical photographer, there to hopefully get some pics.

However, his Boss's (as in the company's owner) daughter Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) is stuck in Mexico, and Daddy Warbucks entrusts Andrew to bring his Daughter back safe and sound. But, things go from bad to worse for our duo, as first the train can't go further due to the tracks being destroyed. And the ferry to the US costs $5000. After paying this exorbitant fee, Andrew unwisely decides to go on a tequila binge, hook up with some cheap floozy, and promptly gets robbed of his and Samantha's passports, and can't get the ferry. Now the only way to get to the US border is to be escorted (this time for $10,000) via armed guard through the alien infested Infected Zone...

Let's face it, this premise sounds freakin' awesome, doesn't it? So, what went wrong here?

Well, the pacing, for a start. Basically, nothing much happens in this film. It's well made, nicely shot and has a surprisingly haunting atmosphere, and credit where it's due to director Gareth Edwards for achieving such a look and tone on a shoestring budget of $15,000, but is overall pretty uneventful and kinda dull. My biggest gripe with this film is that it's misleading.

For a film called "Monsters" there's precious little in the way of monsters in it, or suspense, or scares. When they do appear, they're never fully visible, or else the lighting is far too dark, to see what's happening properly, or else is all shaky cam. I'm aware of the budget, and realize the reasons, but it kills suspense.

It has a great opening scene, shot in night vision, fly on the wall style, of a group of soldiers jawing while on patrol, immediately drawing comparisons with Iraq and putting an urgent contemporary feel on things, as if it was happening, right now.

But then things just go downhill, from there, with shots of the desert, mainly used as padding and nothing else really happening.

Anyone looking for a fast paced action style film, or a film that actually has many monsters in it, along with suspense and thrills, should seriously avoid this, and I really cannot emphasize this enough.

Fans of offbeat horror might like it, but I personally found it ambitious, well made, but ultimately dull and boring, which for a film with such a title and premise, is disappointing, to say the very least.

A generous 5/10, for being well made technically, especially considering its budget, but ultimately a very disappointing and tedious bore, and a film which leaves one feeling distinctly short changed.
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pcarlssons24 October 2010
Amazing movie. A real adventure film, the way they don't make them anymore. Sometimes it felt like a travel documentary, very real, very exciting and realistic. The actors are very good, better than most high paid stars of today. And the girl are beautiful in a very natural way. She's also a wonderful actress.

I'ts important to understand that this isn't your ordinary monster movie. You very seldom see them at all, but you feel their presence. Each step of the way, when we follow the couple on their way back from Mexico to USA, we are with them. We are more like travel companions on a journey than viewers of a movie.

The CGI may lack a bit, but that's not important. Considering the extremely low budget, it's just amazing that this movie exist. The production values are still better than with most high profile movies. Do yourself a favor and See this movie for what it is. Go on a journey into a world that is realistic, exciting - and maybe, just maybe, possible.
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