After a deep space probe crashes in Mexico, the emergence of potentially deadly extraterrestrial lifeform forces the U.S. and Mexican governments to carve out and patrol an “infected zone” between the two countries. Despite constant aerial barrages of lethal gas, the lifeforms continues to thrive and increase aggression.
A photojournalist working in Mexico is ordered by his boss to safely accompany his daughter, recently injured in an attack by one of the lifeforms, back to the U.S. Intent on crossing before the rumors of restricted travel and a border lock down are officially declared, they schedule an expensive trip to the states and call it a night. The next morning it’s discovered that a thieving prostitute has made off with their travel papers, leaving them high and dry and forcing them to pay under the table for a less-than-safe journey directly through the infected zone.
The new passage is fraught with danger, littered with the corpses of unlucky travelers and thick with the odor of gas in the air. A swift attack by the creatures on their caravan leaves the two alone, guideless and seeking safety within one another’s embrace. The closer they get to the border, the deeper their connection becomes but their unlikely romance is soon put to the test when the military agrees to pick them up and take them back to their respective destinations. Can their long-distance love survive even as mankind faces possible extinction?
Things tend to be hit or miss when it comes to science fiction cinema, just as it is in horror. One day you may be treated to an amazing, thought-provoking, truly intelligent sci-fi film and then next, vapid eye-candy. There are those that prefer their sci-fi to be on the traditional (lasers and spaceships) side while others, like me, prefer their sci-fi to be a bit more human. There’s certainly nothing wrong with Star Wars and Star Trek style sci-fi, it has its place, but things really seem to be trending toward films like Moon, District 9 and Timecrimes and that has me very excited.
Monsters is just such a film, it has amazing extraterrestrials (a cross between giant spiders and octopuses) brought to life by fantastic CG (used sparsely) and relatively likable characters in an interesting situation. As always though there was an issue for me, both main characters were played by capable actors but I must admit to having a hard time connecting with them at times, their chemistry just didn’t work as well as I’d hoped and that left me feeling flat. I’m not sure if director Gareth Edwards had intended them to come across as world-weary and defeated but that’s how their attraction for one another came across to me.
As I mentioned previously, the CG was far better than anything I’d expected from a low(er) budget production and, in my opinion, it puts many blockbuster event films to shame. We weren’t constantly bombarded with overblown visuals nor did the director feel the need to beat us over the head with their subtext either. As the film unfolds we’re given more and more of the creatures until the reveal in all of its alien glory is absolutely beautiful, on par (though smaller in scale) with the final sequence of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Monsters is by no means perfect but it’s so damn good that I will undoubtedly be purchasing this when it hits shelves. After my initial viewing I wasn’t entirely sure whether my issues with the romance angle were strong enough to forgo a purchase but a second viewing convinced me to add it to my collection. I’d highly recommend renting this.