With a nifty premise and a low budget, the independent sci-fi drama Monsters plays around with the genre and has some serious fun, and clearly served as a major calling card for its creator. Written, photographed, designed (both visually and physically) and directed by then first timer Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, the upcoming Rogue One), Monsters is more of a romantic drama than the next Cloverfield or District 9, though the influence of both of those films can certainly be felt from time to time. But whereas Cloverfield was a hectic and adrenalin-pumping action picture and District 9 was a social and political allegory cleverly disguised as a buddy-action film, Monsters plays it quiet and small for the most part, allowing its two lead actors (the excellent Scoot McNairy and easy on the eyes Whitney Able) to develop solid chemistry and pull the audience into their predicament. What sets this film apart from the rest of the genre competition is that for as much excitement that was shown for the monsters themselves, the human side to the story was never skimped out on, and because of this, the emotional investment is that much richer.


The narrative hook of Monsters is that a NASA space probe has crashed in Mexico and now there are various extraterrestrial lifeforms running amok all over the country, with the military fighting them to the death. Andrew (McNairy, one my favorite actors) has been tasked with delivering his boss’s daughter, Samantha (Able), back to the states, but in order to do so, the two of them have to risk their lives and trek through the “infected zone” where anything at any moment could pop out and eat them. Edwards was clearly working on a shoe-string budget for this type of material but was still able to deliver superb visual effects in a few key sequences; it’s amazing what home computers can do these days as most of this ingenious little film was crafted in his living room. But what made Monsters really stand out was its finale – I absolutely loved the final moments of this movie and where the story went and how it totally upended your expectations. Instead of going for the easy and the bombastic, Edwards went poetic and thoughtful, and in doing so, created a monster movie unlike any other.


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