REVIEW: Monsters

25 01 2013

MonstersGareth Edwards, helmer the latest reincarnation of the Godzilla franchise, is about to work with monsters on a very big scale (and budget).  However, if you want to see the skill and directorial poise of Edwards on a more modest, personal level, there’s no other option than to check out his debut film, “Monsters.”

It’s not quite found-footage, but “Monsters” offers you the intimacy that the emerging subgenre always attempts to provide and usually fails to deliver.  Edwards makes the rare movie whose exposition might be more complicated than the story.  But if you decide to take the plunge into his subtly nightmarish world, you’ll discover that such simplicity of story is a noble quality, not a flaw.

The film follows the journey of Scoot McNairy’s Andrew Kaulder, a photojournalist sent down to Mexico to recover and return his boss’ daughter, Whitney Able’s Samantha Wynden.  And no, his search for her is not the main plot of the film.  In fact, he finds her within the first 10 minutes.

The titular monsters barely appear, and when they do late in the film, it’s anti-climatic and not exactly thrilling or terrifying.  “Monsters” is a movie about the effects of these creatures, extra-terrestrials who landed in Mexico six years before the events of the film.  There’s now a large “infected zone” that Andrew and Samantha have to pay a great deal to go around – or risk their lives to go through.

There are, of course, some allegorical implications for the alien invasion (creatures that Americans try to confine in Mexico by a giant fence along the border, anyone?).  But the thrill of “Monsters” is not in the political but in the personal.  It’s fascinating to watch the natural relationship and rapport develop between Andrew and Samantha in ways that are subtly affected by the presence of these monsters.  Though watching them becomes slowly less and less interesting as the movie progresses, the clever and subversive filmmaking on display from Gareth Edwards makes this 90 minutes fairly well spent.  B2halfstars

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