Monsters Vs. Illegal Aliens

Sci-fi indie flick creates big-dollar effects with a peso budget

Don’t let the generic title of Monsters fool you — it’s really a pretty unique film. With an estimated budget of $800,000, which is the latte and donuts budget for most Hollywood movies, Monsters offers some surprisingly big-time special effects. But the real story behind the film’s creation is its super-cheap on-location guerilla shooting style, in which the film’s crew (one writer/director, two cameramen and two actors) would show up unannounced, film their scene in front of whatever happened to be going on and then skedaddle. The result was a highly realistic low-budget sci-fi flick that manages to do more right than wrong.

The plot is simple enough: A NASA probe that collected alien life samples has crashed into northern Mexico, which is now “the infected zone,” a playground for War of the Worlds-type aliens. Photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) has just arrived in Central America on assignment when his mission changes. Instead of photographing the aliens’ northward migration, he now must find the injured Samantha (Whitney Able), the daughter of an all-powerful Rupert Murdoch-type, and get her out of Mexico and back to the safety of the United States.

Monsters is heavily derivative, no doubt about it. The occasional handheld camera shot feels like Cloverfield. The aliens-living-among-us theme recalls District 9. The setting is occasionally reminiscent of Predator or even Jurassic Park. But unlike these movies, in which the special effects take center stage, writer/director Gareth Edwards instead focuses on the budding relationship between his two main characters. This is likely out of necessity, as giant, glowing squid-like aliens and small arms fire is expensive, but improvised dialog is cheap.

Lead actors McNairy and Able are probably given too much free rein in creating their dialog and developing their characters, as these areas (along with some under-realized themes) eventually begin to stand out as the film’s weaknesses. But given the unusual circumstances surrounding the filming of Monsters, as well as the legions of non-actors who they interact with on-screen (only two actors appear in the film’s IMDB.com credits), they do a sufficiently good job. Cool music and just-right special effects help smooth over these wrinkles.

In short, there’s nothing cheap- looking about Monsters, which re-sets the bar in an expanding field of DIY indie films doing increasingly more with less. Viewed in this light, Monsters is an amazing accomplishment and a worthy rental.

Grade - B

posted at 02:42 pm
on Friday, February 18th, 2011

COMMENTS

(We're testing Facebook commenting (you can login using other services, too); please let us know if you have trouble.)


 

« Previous Page


Marvel Blockbusts a Cap

With fight choreography pickpocketed from Baryshnikov and more leaping and bounding than Pooh’s friend Tigger on cocaine, Captain America (Chris Evans) makes beating the crap out of bad guys look...

more »


That Ship Cray

They gave the guy who made Requiem for a Dream $150 million to make a movie about Noah’s ark. Huh?! In Requiem, writer/director Darren Aronofsky had Jennifer Connelly connect with another woman via...

more »


Quirking on Something Different

To alter a phrase from Twain, who won’t mind because he’s dead, writer/director Wes Anderson repeated history until he figured out how to rhyme. Barring a brief foray into stop-motion animation,...

more »


Speedy and Irritable

The most important thing to know before attempting to endure the lumbering bore that is Need for Speed is this: every single character in the film is unspeakably dumb. Presumably set in a world...

more »


Xerox Xerxes

When director Zack Snyder’s opus of underwear modeling amidst geysers of animated blood, 300, first arrived eight years ago, no one expected a sequel. And not just because 299 of the 300 Spartans...

more »







Advanced Search