Starring: Scott McNairy, Whitney Able

Director: Gareth Edwards

Writer: Gareth Edwards

Cinematography: Gareth Edwards

Original Score: Jon Hopkins

Running Time: 96 mins.

There is a strong possibility that the build up to the release of Monsters, SFX man Gareth Edwards debut as director and writer, has led you down the garden path so to speak. This years District 9 or Cloverfield many have shouted, and with a marketing campaign that saw teaser posters emblazoned with THAT title and a logo reminiscent of last years District 9 you would be forgiven for expecting such a film. Alas, if you go expecting the film the title suggests you will likely be hugely disappointed on one front, while on the other if you can appreciate a film that favours character development and subtlety over big-budget action scenes, and just so happens to be set against the backdrop of a post-monster apocalypse you will find a gem of a film that is original yet without pretence, a truly rare occurence.

Edward’s shot Monsters on a miniscule budget, knowing this means alarm bells would ring pre-film as to what you should expect in terms of action etc. that is not to say there aren’t tense scenes, there are though these are generally few and far between and are over as soon as they have begun, just as would actually happen, you see for all the fantasy to be found among the alien-based plotting this is a rooted in reality as any film, the monster apocalypse used to enhance a situation between to characters. It is a dynamic that sees Kaulder and Sam (McNairy and Able) journey from one side of the USA to the other, however to do this they must risk the “infected zone”, the place where an alien probe crashed 6 years earlier and left the titular Monsters to roam and reproduce amidst attempts by the constant military airstrikes to control their movement, something which we learn only angers the creatures further.

The creatures themselves are vast, tentacled things that come across as a cross between War of the Worlds UFO’s and the Cloverfield creature, signalling their arrival with honking and whale-like sirens your nerves will be jangling whenever they are on the approach to the central duo, in one sequence there is a strong reminiscence to Jurassic Park’s T-Rex attack, it is that tense, a tension which is always prevalent throughout but does not get in the way of the human element which is ultimately where the thrust of the narrative drives us, always back to Sam and Kaulder. Acting out their journey amongst a cast of non-actors, locals always picked at random who keep the tone as real as you could hope and only further the intimacy of a film that could so easily have veered into generic monster movie territory.

Everything must always be drawn back to the two actors however as it is their story we are drawn into, the beauty here is that there is a love story element but one could never label it as such for it avoids slipping into cliché, the first kiss, the slow burning romance etc. this is a real relationship coming into fruition, likely spurred on by an actual attraction (the couple are now married) theres is a relationship that culminates in a scene of beauty, and true love  though not in the way you will expect. It is a scene that has poignancy and tragedy in equal measure particularly in light of a downbeat ending that isn’t hammered home but works perfectly in context with all that has come before bringing us full circle.

There is little doubt many will not get what they bargained for with Monsters, I certainly didn’t in expecting something more akin to Cloverfield, it was refreshing to be disappointed on that front as originality of this kind is rare even if won’t be wanted by those seeking more bang for their buck and in that respect the this is not a film for the friday night crowd but if you like your movies with more than surface sheen then look no further … Skyline this is not!

VERDICT

Monsters isn’t a creature feature with plentiful action scenes and cardboard cut-out characters, what it is, is unexpectedly intimate, sporadically tense and hugely involving with one of the year’s best endings.

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