They were right.
Last night, I checked out Monsters on the Netflix Instant Player (quick-link to the Monsters Netflix page). The Photoshoppy cover-art for the movie and lack of recognizable actors gave it a cheap feel at first, and I really wonder how many people simply overlooked the movie for those facts alone, but trusting the recommendations, I pushed past the weak cover-art and mysterious new actors and started up Monsters.
As it would turn out, the two “new” faces that the plot of Monsters revolved around, would add to the movie in a way a well known actor could not. Part of the fantasy of this movie is the dealings with the unknown, whether it be the extra-terrestrials, the background story of the protagonists, or their subsequent future. The two actors, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able, lend to that mystery in that we, the audience, are unfamiliar with them all together. Since we cannot connect them to previously known characters, we don’t know if we can trust McNairy’s character and on the same note, we don’t know if Able’s character is all she says she is either. The exploration of these protagonist’s character might as well be the second center piece to this film, the first being the monsters.
Don’t come into Monsters expecting the same level of alien screen-time that was had in District 9. Monsters simply did not have the budget for extravagant special effects. Monsters only had a $500,000 budget, compared to District 9‘s $30 million budget. The low budget does not automatically equate to cheap special effects though. The special effects were certainly nothing to laugh at, as there was never a cheesy scene in the movie. The monsters do make appearances, but your imagination will do most of the monster-making.
The story centers around McNairy’s character being tasked with escorting Able’s character, his boss’s daughter, out of Mexico and around the “infected zone” that has spread throughout the border between Mexico and the United States. The “infected zone” became contaminated when a NASA discovery probe crash landed in the Mexican desert after investigating potential extra-terrestrial life on another planet.
Usually I would post a trailer for the film I am reviewing, but I feel that Monsters is best enjoyed going into the movie knowing little, if anything, about it. The fun of the movie is getting to explore what is really going on, while following two interesting characters through dangerous situations.
Even if you are not too crazy about Science Fiction movies, you will still enjoy Monsters for the character development and the overall journey of the movie. If you do usually enjoy a good sci-fi flick: trust me when I tell you it was the best monster/alien movie I have seen since District 9.
As I researched more information about Monsters, I discovered the film’s impressive production history:
“The film was shot entirely on location: any settings featured in the film were real locations often used without permission asked in advance, and the extras were just people who happened to be there at the time”
“As the chemistry between [McNairy and Able] was so important, [the director] wanted a real couple, luckily McNairy’s then-girlfriend (and now wife) Whitney Able was an actress, and joined the project”
“The film was shot in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Texas in the US, over three weeks. For about 90% of the filming the crew comprised seven people transported in one van”
“As most of the extras were non-actors who were persuaded to be in the film, their action was improvised. Garth Edwards (the Director) had over 100 hours of unique, ad-libbed footage (rather than repeated takes of scripted scenes) to edit into a coherent film. Edwards did all the special effects himself using off-the-shelf Adobe software and Autodesk 3ds Max. The first assembly was over four hours long, but this was trimmed to 94 minutes after eight months of editing.” (Source)
Monsters debuted at the 2010 South-by-Southwest Film Festival in March and was theatrically released in October 2010 by Magnolia Pictures. The film was written and directed by Garth Edwards, produced by Allan Niblo and James Richardson, and the music was composed by Jon Hopkins.