Thursday, February 3, 2011

Monsters (2010)

One thing in the field of horror that's refreshing is originality. It's there-it just happens to be hard to find usually, and I don't just mean in Hollywood. One thing that seems to be absent in a lot of today's indie horror is originality. Director's and distributors are more interested in exploiting current trends or more often than not trying to pay tribute to the movies that came before them. I guess that's why Gareth Edward's debut picture "Monsters" is such a nice breath of fresh air, as it takes a well worn genre (giant monsters) and does something new and altogether original with it.

Six years ago, NASA discovered the possibility of alien life. So after a probe meant to collect samples crashed onto Earth, new, gigantic lifeforms emerged and half of Mexico was quarantined. Six years later, American journalist Andrew Kauldner (Scoot McNairy) agrees to escort shaken American tourist Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) through the infected zone to safety in the U.S. Border.

To be fair, "Monsters" really isn't a horror film-its a Science Fiction film. Also, those who go into it expecting a film like "District 9" or a giant monsters destroying buildings type of film will be sorely disappointed. Nope, this is more of a character drama about two people who slowly get to know each other, and its actually not a boring one either. That's largely because McNairy and Able are so convincing in their roles, and because Edwards doesn't rush things. In fact, each situation is fascinating and at times tense, and because these two are so well written, you actually care about them. As for the meat that genre fans want-how do the monsters look? Well, they look spectacular. Edwards has a background in special effects, and it shows here, as he manages to take a movie that cost $800'0000, and makes everything-from the gorgeous scenery to the dazzling effects work-look at least 10 or more times its budget. Its a testament of low budget ingenuity and skill, and it deserves to be applauded for it.

If there are any problems, it would be that the film does at times feel a bit too "indie" for its own good, and by that I mean that it falls through a few indie movie trappings. Scenes like Samantha running from Andrew after spotting him with another woman felt a little too "cute" to me, though I probably wouldn't have minded that if it had been explored more later. Also, as I said, those hoping for more traditional giant monster fair aren't going to like this. This is the type of movie you watch with an open mind.

That out of the way, those looking for something that's more original and rewarding in what feels like an increasingly predictable independent movie atmosphere will be pleased with "Monsters." Its nice to see a movie that subverts genre expectations in such a good way, and rare as well.

Rating: 8.5/10

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