Monday, May 16, 2011

DVD - Monsters

or: Roadie in the infected zone.

One word to sum it up: Quality.

There are two types of debut film-makers: One type is usually someone who has had experience with music videos and the like that has been thrown in to direct a crappy romantic comedy or a cheesy blockbuster of sorts. Another type is someone who has written a movie which they have been working on forever, and try to fund it themselves, ignoring the fact that they don't have any huge names headlining it and the certainly don't have a huge budget to work with. Christopher Nolan did it with Following, a really good movie which cost him just $6,000 to make, and look where he is now. Darren Aronofsky did it with his debut Pi, costing $60,000. He ain't so bad nowadays. Gareth Edwards, with his first feature film and only $800,000 to make a believable sci-fi movie, shows enough promise with Monsters, which could say that he might be as good as either Nolan or Aronofsky in the future. And people, who probably missed this film, will go back to this film and see how effective a small budget can be.

Here's my first problem though: the small budget made me like this movie even more than I believe it deserved. There isn't much story within the's pretty much all about the aesthetics. Which is a pretty big stake to claim when you don't spend millions on the movie, which is why Monsters succeeds. The atmosphere in this film is incredible. Edwards has paid so much attention to making a realistic alternate world that has been taken over by monsters. I loved seeing all the shots of broken buildings and roads which looked exactly like a monster had interfered with it. Some people go completely over the top when they do these sorts of flicks and suggest that all kinds of crazy things happened. Not here. This is one of the reasons why Monsters is such an achievement.

Edwards also has a sturdy hand when it comes to directing and editing. The cinematogrpahy is absolutely beautiful. I can't believe that people will literally throw millions at someone to get a job half as good as this one. Every shot is one that is made out of love, and you can tell. That camera has a lot of heart, which may sound strange, but it's obvious that Edwards really cared about this film and wanted to make it as beautiful as possible. His locations were well picked, making for an unforgettable experience when it comes to looking at the film. What he did with the special effects was pretty amazing, as well. While there wasn't as much monster action as I was expecting, the scene towards the end when the two creatures were joining over the top of the gas station was truly spectacular. It was a simple, yet very effective scene, which made me wonder exactly how much it costs to do such great special effects. Because those effects were pretty damn good.

Where Monsters has it's major hiccup, though, is the fact that it is all dressed up and it has barely anywhere to go. It's essentially a road trip movie, and because the world is in danger, then I guess you could say this film differentiates itself from other road trip movies. But to be honest, the characters aren't really the most exciting people ever and their story isn't anything to rave about. They don't have any heroic moments and the ending is cheaply cliched. I guess it helps that newcomers Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy can play their parts so the rest of the film, they were very natural, and had amazing chemistry. It's just a shame that most of the film was improvised, though, because structure could have helped this film greatly. Instead, it drags with excessive dialogue which doesn't add an arc to the characters at all. And that's a huge shame, because Monsters achieved so much, only to have it all undone by a really average story.

THE VERDICT: It's a very believable movie...the atmosphere, the chemistry and the effects. Monsters is good for it's low budget, but the story is ultimately lacking.

What I hoped for:

What I got:


  1. From the start of it, it sounded like you LOVED the film, and I was thinking we were gonna have a big debate on this one, but your points are totally valid.

    For me, Monsters was a film I held in such great esteem because I was disappointed by the end of it. I even went on to say in some review that it was a throwback to 70s American acting...I had no idea what I was thinking of, then.

    I kind of swap and change on this one, though. I want to root for it because of it's minuscule budget, but then, like you, I have some kind of reality check about the story and think it's a film that is stylish, but has no substance.

    Good review though, (as always.)

  2. I have heard this was very good, but for whatever reason it just has never interested me. Perhaps I should give it a go! Great review

  3. Yeah, I've heard this one was pretty disappointing from a narrative point of view.
    But I still may see it, as I find low budget first feature length films to be fascinating. Probably because I'll be doing to do the same someday...

    Great review Stevee, very balanced criticism!

  4. Cherokee - I was actually going to rate it higher, but then as I kept writing, I got more and more pissed off with it. I keep remembering how small the budget was and how brilliant it turned out to be, but then the film would bore people who don't know of the budget. Oh well, we can't all win.

    Matt - Give it a go...I'd love to see what you think of it!

    Jack - I find low budget feature films interesting for exactly the same reason as you!


You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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