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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 09.02.10] movie review scifi thriller drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Gareth Edwards
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 8 out of 10

Perhaps disingenuously being promoted as the new District 9, Monsters is a surprisingly subtle film that rather quaintly takes its cue from old-fashioned science fiction travelogues. Anyone hoping for scary aliens and flash bang action - and there'll be quite a few - is going to be disappointed, but apply a little thought to what you see and you'll be in for a treat.

We are introduced to an American continent divided by a huge quarantine zone stretching across Mexico, an area that six years previously was infected by alien spores carried on a crashed satellite. Photographer Andrew is tasked with safely escorting Samantha, his boss's daughter, around the zone and back home to the United States. The safe, legal way to do this is to go round the quarantine, but Andrew and Samantha arrive at a Mexican ferry port only to find that the quarantine zone has been extended and travel is impossible.

The future Central America they pass through is familiar from news reels, a war-torn land of rusting tanks and makeshift graves, in areas recaptured from the aliens by the US army. Refugees throng the streets and chaos reigns, the extortionate black market prices charged for the ferry journey to the United States explained with a shrug and a smirk. It's a way of making us look more closely at present day wars and population movements, showing what is everyday life for many people in the developing world through a fantastical back story.

We haven't seen much of the aliens themselves so far apart from some grainy infra-red military footage at the start of the film, and its at this point some viewers will start to get itchy for the alien attack they're sure must be coming. They've got a long wait. Even as Andrew and Samantha enter the infected zone accompanied by hired guides, a group of mercenaries with a wearily gentle attitude hinting that all is not what it seems behind the quarantine, it's quite a while until the aliens appear. Instead this richly drawn future world is further explored and explained, in a story akin to old science fiction novels like HG Wells's "The Time Machine" or Richard Jeffries's "After London", note-taking travelogues influenced by the great explorers of their age.

This approach is perhaps a little slender, a simple journey from A to B without much in the way of action, but is also a welcome relief from the usual alien invasion movie. When we finally see the aliens in all their glory it isn't in the context you'd expect but more in keeping with the film's dreamy, exotic style, their appearance alongside the paranoia and military might of US border installations passing subtle but sharp political comment.

There's a restraint running through Monsters rare in genre cinema, a refusal to bow to the desires of a sensation-hungry audience. Its simplicity opens a richly drawn world to juxtapositions of meaning and intent, relying on the viewer's intelligence to decode an implicit message in its story. That in the end it does this through beauty and grace rather than conflict and violence is all the more impressive.

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Cyberhal (12 years ago) Reply

I want to see this.


projectcyclops (12 years ago) Reply

Great review Ben, sums up the film very well. Can't wait to see this again.


Ben Austwick (12 years ago) Reply

Thanks :) I only saw it a few days ago and I want to see it again already!


Rook (12 years ago) Reply

Good review. Again, reminds me of Tarkovsky's STALKER.


scifiguy50 (12 years ago) Reply

I agree with review by Ben, I felt the focus was on the human element, on the 2 main characters (similar to "the Host") rather than creepy alien scares, to good effect. Plenty of cgi but it compliments the great atmosphere, good storyline-not dumb downed as so often done. Recommended = if you can see it; as director has few hopes of this film getting picked up. He did say next he was going to work with those who did the Nightwatch/Daywatch russian films. Cool!


Cletus (12 years ago) Reply

Just saw it. Brilliant, a disturbing apocalyptic vision, but it will be a BIG disappointment to those expecting a special effects monster smack-down! I particularly like that the ending can be interpreted different ways.


toro (12 years ago) Reply

Just saw it. And I have mixed feelings.

The main actor is good, but the character is unsympathetic, which means the love story is weak. The actress is clearly hot, maybe talented, but the gloomy face is overused. For me, the entire trip is simply not realistic, as in The Road, they behave like some retards on a road trip. Sorry. But they behave in a way totally disconnected with the surrounding situation. Too many failures to mention.
But on the other hand, I loved the visuals. The jungle and the overall off beat feeling. I loved the movie pacing.

My rating: 7/10.

Major spoiler: The beginning is the end of the movie.

The story is comparing the US army with monsters and ofc with a bunch of incompetents. It's trendy at the moment, so no harm done. But the comparison between Mexicans and monsters is quite idiotic. Building a fence and protecting yourself in front of danger is sane behavior in spite of leftist propaganda that is stating otherwise. A country has a right to defend itself, the human body has the right to defend itself. The moment it cannot or no longer wants to defends itself, that entity will cease to exist. And another thing is that violence is not the desirable, but it is a necessity of life. Life and violence are intertwined as much as life and death. For these reasons, I was absolutely baffled by the main protagonist refusal to carry a gun in the context of the film. For me, this is the weakness that killed the movie: the character were more occupied to provide a leftist guide to post-apocalyptic situations, instead of a rational and sane behavior. Ofc, I'm exaggerating a bit, but I would had been a better movie without the obvious political discourse.
Anyway, it pretty funny that the dreamy "leftists" will die in the end aka beginning. Usually that happens when you are deflecting the reality :)
District 9 is far more powerful than this. But the movie is still good and has something to offer.


dreamy leftist (10 years ago) Reply

Ha. Epic comment. So they are "dreamy leftists" because they sympathize with children being killed? What other plot points can you name that suggest they are dreamy leftists. What an out of touch ass clown you are.


Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply



Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

hey toro, you're a dick. i just got this movie and was about to watch it in an hour or so.

i figured i'd go back to quietearth and read the review and you're here putting spoilers in the comments. what's wrong with you? how stupid can you be? quietearth is pretty much my go-to website for news and reviews of movies like this but it makes it really unlikely i'll keep coming to this website when dumbasses like you are putting spoilers in the comments.

fucking retard.


David Banner (11 years ago) Reply

Watched this yesterday on Blu-Ray, including all the extras. Inspiring stuff.

I was expecting a 'small' sci-fi movie and that is what I got. It's not a whopper of a movie, it's the kind of movie I am sure makes Roger Coreman smile when/if he sees it.

Out of the sci-fi movies we've been served last years, this one is actually in the top 5 best imo. We've not have many good ones, but this one does stand out.

Some small things I find mildly confusing, but of little importence:

What did the movie actually cost? They say $15,000, but their equippment alone costs more? OK, let's say they rented it, or borrowed it, whatever. But with a crew of less than 10(inc actors) the cost of travelling and staying/living at hotels in several countries must have been more than $15,000?

BoxOfficeMojo listed $500,000, imdb $800,000. Hense my confusion. Could be that it actually cost 15K, and another 475K was spent on marketing. Maybe it was 15K for the movie, then they added the cost of actors, director, editor, ect. Was just wondering, maybe someone could clear this up, I know it's been over half a year since this movie came out, but it's just now I've had a chance to see it, so finding the correct datas on the film seems sorta hard :)

I do feel I should add that the movie could have been longer. The filmmakers went out and made a small movie and I don't see the need for the 90mins that the movie theatures prefer. They mention in the doc's that there could have been a 4h, a 2.5h version of the film, a 2.5h version could have made it better. The movies audience is small, and I do think we prefer more.

Overall, it was a good movie, but not awsome.

Support indie!


Saladyn (11 years ago) Reply

Good movie!

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