Monsters is a cross between District 9 & Cloverfield…or that’s what the trailer would have you believe. In the world of misleading trailers this would be fairly high up its ‘best of’ charts; but this shouldn’t take away from how much of an achievement this film is.
In the world of Monsters alien lifeforms have landed on earth 6 years prior and have inhabited a large portion The United States & Mexico, dubbed “The Infected Zone”. Its decided that the best way to contain the zone is to build two huge barriers at either side, containing the zone and keeping the alien life at bay. Down in Mexico, after a recent attack on several hotels and large buildings; the city is in disarray. Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is an American photojournalist working in the city, he is tasked by his employer to escort the company director’s daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) back home to America. Andrew is not interested in becoming an escort and is dealing with the moral implications of his job and the types of photos he is forced to take and Samantha isn’t looking forward to her return to America, she is going through a crisis regarding her own position in life, her relationship with her father, and her impending marriage. The pair reluctantly set off towards the most northern point of the Mexican coast line to get a ferry to America before the yearly alien migration season begins and they are trapped in Mexico for the next 6 months; before another window is available.
Filmed on a meagre budget of just $15,000 and produced for a total budget of less than $400,000, its a remarkable achievment. To put those figures in perspective both the aforementioned comparisons (District 9 & Cloverfield) cost upwards of $25 million each! British director Gareth Edwards, wrote, storyboarded, edited, filmed and produced all the visual effects for the film. The only hired actors in the film were the two leads, and everyone else were locals who happened to be around the area at the time. Everything was shot on location in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Texas alot of the time without pre granted permission, over a period of just 3 weeks. With such a rough and ready schedule and style of shooting, coupled with the ad-libbing extras and non-actors, Edwards was left with over 100 hours of footage for the film. This shines through during the film as every aspect of the dialogue seems natural and unforced; helped by the fact that Scoot & Whitney are engaged in real life.
Instead of hindering the film, the low budget helped create a very natural film that shines as a beacon of what can be achieved in the digital age and on standard equipment & out of the box editing software.
The film has received mixed reviews, but most of the negativity seems to be directed towards how mislead people feel by the trailer and the publishers marketing of the project. But take this film as it is, and approach it with an open mind and what you will find is an engaging love story set against a very unusual backdrop.
Monsters is out in cinemas now, but you can check out the slightly misleading trailer below.