Monsters (2010) Movie Review


Many people are going to compare “Monsters” to “District 9″ (like me) and the parallels are there (aliens becoming an accepted part of human life, a man is in it, etc), but it’s a very different beast, or ‘monster’ if you will.  Whereas “District 9″ ramped up the action and gore, “Monsters” ramps up the walking and the talking – which is both a good and a bad thing.  It’s a poignant piece, that never once goes for the jugular, but instead pulls on the heart strings (wait, I suppose the jugular could be considered a ‘heart string’ – oh ignore it, you know what I’m trying to say) with its human relationship angle.  Whereas the focus of “District 9″ was the aliens, with “Monsters”, we’re very much concerned with the two human protagonists, with the odd monster thrown in for good measure.  This is an interesting way of tackling what is essentially a genre pic – sidelining the monsters and only having them appear now and again to remind you that this is actually a science-fiction flick.

Talking of the monsters, they’re absolutely gobsmacking for a film with such a small budget.  Director Gareth Edwards has commented on how he got into movie special effects as an in-road into becoming a filmmaker, and his previous expertise in this area is certainly apparent on screen.  The eponymous beasties come across as a cross between a giant squid and The Brain from “Pinky and the Brain” – well at least that’s what I thought when I saw them (they probably won’t be putting that on the poster).

Still, they’re pretty much background players throughout most of the film, aside from an early “Cloverfield” type encounter and a swamp incident.  Oh, and the end, when we’re treated to a money shot (this is an entirely appropriate term) that showcases the creatures in their full glory.  The entire film builds up to this fantastic moment, and it’s a true crowd pleaser (it’s even a bit of a tear-jerker – if you’re a soppy wimp anyway.  I’M NOT.  I DEFINITELY DIDN’T ALMOST CRY).

Still, this CGI-fuelled moment only really forms a small part of the entire narrative (even though it’s such a climactic spectacle), because as I mentioned previously, it’s all about the humans.  It’s also no ‘humans are the real monsters’ cliché either – it’s about as simple as they come – a man and a woman quite like each other.  It’s pretty run-of-the-mill in that sense, but the setting and the awesomely understated (bit of an oxymoron, but again, shut up – you know what I’m trying to say*) performances by the two leads make it exceptional.  Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy give it their all, and subsequently give us two fantastic turns that hold the attention with a stronger grip than there should be – especially considering not much actually happens.  Until the giant squid/The Brain monsters appear anyway.

However, it’s Gareth Edwards that really stands out as the creative force behind this film.  Not only is he behind the fantastic special effects, but his subtle, unobtrusive direction and fantastic use of a washed-out colour palette combine to create a film that has ‘auteur’ stamped all over it.  I’m really interested in what Edwards has up his sleeve next – let’s hope there’s a least one giant robot in there somewhere.

If there’s anything wrong with it, it’s that it’s just a tad too action-lite.  I realise this is the point, but it’ll possibly alienate many people who are looking for the kind of event picture that the marketing may lead us to believe “Monsters” is.  Still, if you can handle a film called “Monsters” which isn’t completely about monsters (for example, “A Bee Movie” didn’t have any bees in it.  Oh wait, sorry, yeah it did.  Scrap that.), then you should be ok.  Those wanting Michael Bay’s “Monsters” will be sorely disappointed.

The performances, the effects, the direction, the script, the sound design (and everything else I may have missed) work together to create a monster movie with a difference – it’s never in your face, it’s always engaging and it’s consistently entertaining throughout – even though there’s not too much going on.  Ignore the voice in your head that’s saying ‘I want monsters fighting each other all the time – I don’t want to see people walking and staring’ (you know the one, you psycho), and instead see “Monsters” – preferably at the cinema, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Ok, fine, I don’t guarantee it.  Humour me.

Gareth Edwards (director) / Gareth Edwards (screenplay)
CAST: Whitney Able … Samantha Wynden
Scoot McNairy … Andrew Kaulder

Buy Monsters on DVD

Author: Gazz Ogden

Gary enjoys films with explosions, fighting, giant robots, sex scenes, swearing, monsters and Eric Roberts - or what can more commonly be termed, 'shit'. He is an expert (by default) on films that nobody else watches and his favourite movie is Transformers - although he is aware lots of people watched that.
  • Arthur

    Very fine review. I ordered “Monsters” via video on demand in HD on Sept. 24th. It was a lofty $10.99 on Fios, but it was well worth it. Being a film student myself, I love these kinds of films that seemingly come from out of nowhere. I did get the “humans are the real monsters” cliche though. The film makes you aware that these creatures are non-violent and man brought the war to them which resulted in unnecessary human deaths. There are “Cloverfield” and “District 9″ moments but this is a different kind of film; sort of like a thinking man’s (or woman’s) film. I can not wait until it is released on blu-ray. Get busy Magnet.

    • Vangpo

      Non violent? There are several instances where the monsters attack people without any hostile actions being taken against them to warrant such attacks. Did you even watch “Monsters”?

  • Scuzzyusbourne

    “There are “Cloverfield” and “District 9″ moments but this is a different kind of film; sort of like a thinking man’s (or woman’s) film.”
    Thinking? really? Like how the two morons in the film didn’t think about a gas mask UNTIL they are going into the alien infested chemical agent laden countryside?
    Like how this has been going on for SIX YEARS but is treated like it just started yesterday by our two leading actors? You’d think that going to Mexico after an event like this would at least require SOME knowledge of what was going on…but they act completely oblivious, like its some surprise.
    Thinking, like the 5k they threw away? I’m just…thinking here, but…wouldn’t grabbing a bus SOUTH to ANY city with an airport have been safer not to mention CHEAPER?!?
    What I was surprised at was how the man didn’t slap the woman so hard her face detached for saying “I don’t want to go home.” after she risked both their lives.
    This movie is STUPID. There was no thought to any of it. I take that back, they did think this…”we’ve made a totally dumb, BAD relationship flick that no one is going to pay for…lets…….throw on some CGI tentacles, some tree fungus with embedded LEDs, fighter planes, jets and doctor up some 3rd world location and trick everyone into watching it!”
    Its a simple case of bait and switch theft.
    He’s a womanizing drunken retard who’ll hit on anything with a pulse. She’s a neurotic twit. We’re given absolutely ZERO reason to like them or root for them. We watch them lay around in the back of trucks and on boats for a big portion of the film. By the end I was praying the military would shoot them both on sight or at the very least the big whale singing octopi would stomp on them.
    Oh and speaking of the octopi..100 feet tall mind you…isn’t WEIRD you don’t see any in those sprawling cinematic shots? There are “Cloverfield” and “District 9″ moments but this is a different kind of film; sort of like a thinking man’s (or woman’s) film.
    That’s how much thought was put into this movie. NONE.

    Loop the trailer, same effect and you save $10.99.

  • Nfr57

    Why even bother. Nothing good about this movie. Complete c@@p!!!!

  • Vangpo

    Quite possibly one of the dumbest non-B grade movies I’ve ever watched. A total waste of $13 and 2 hours of my time. I feel robbed.