Monday, February 21, 2011

monsters [2010]

if mumblecore went horror this might be what the film woud look like. this flick got mixed reviews from horror journalists because it really is not about monsters at all. instead the story focuses on a couple, played by the sprightly named actors scooter mcnairy and whitney able, as the travel thru the mexican infected zone to get back home to the u.s.

the monsters of the title live in the infected zone. we are told in a prologue that what happened six years earlier nasa found evidence of alien life within our solar systems and promptly sent a probe to collect samples. the probe broke up upon reentry over mexico and shortly these creatures began to dominate the landscape decimating people and structures.

scooter is a photojournalist there to document the creatures and whitney happens to be in-country wounded in some accident. she also is the daughter of scooter's boss. scooter is then urged by his boss to escort his daughter out of mexico before the yearly migration of the creatures seals the border between mexico and the u.s.

the pace of this movie is languid and i understand the filmmaker, gareth edwards, did it on a budget close to next-to-nothing. you wouldn't know it. i found this movie magical and the photography, editing, score, and acting on a par with the best indie filmmakers working today. the plot is fairly boilerplate boy-meets-girl variety, but there seems to be authentic chemistry between the principals. and that's the reason why the horror community is on the fence with this pic. the monsters are present but they are the backdrop to the budding romance between scooter and whitney.

the fx are astonishing too for a movie of such limited funds and resources. i read that edwards pretty much did this flick on the fly and employed guerrilla tactics that werner herzog would approve of. most of the extras are not actors but people edwards, scooter, whitney and their tiny crew encountered in the course of shooting in mexico and costa rica. another thing that increases the movie's verisimilitude is that the people, the pace of life in mexico and costa rica, the corruption of the officials and so forth, seem to me so authentic. scooter and whitney are never in any danger if they can't bribe officials but they are also shit-out-fof-luck if they don't have the money to do so. there is also real kindness and generosity often from the same people and officials too which strike me as hitting the mark as life lived in mexico.

i'm not going to end this review with spoilers. however, the movie starts with the ending and dovetails quite nicely with the arc of the narrative. you can also guess at the 10 minute mark why these creatures migrate every year. one criticism i have with edwards and his scriptwriters is why they chose only to depict the u.s. and mexican military to eliminate these creatures, the people forced to live within and right outside the infected zone, but not say one biologist there to study these creatures. i'd think that the infected zone would be crawling with scientists. not in this flick. rather edwards chose to populate his story with a couple who grow together and perhaps even grow up as they navigate their way thru some extraordinary country and creatures.

this is a road movie with a unique bent. it is also a love story that breaks into horror. i heard quentin tarantino say that he'd like to make a godzilla movie but one where it's about the people who live in a city that was built with and around godzilla. the monster's influence would be everywhere but you'd never see it except in the atmosphere of the city and perhaps a distant roar or a found footprint. if tarantino does make that movie he'd do well to study this film by gareth edwards.


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