Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Monsters (Movie Review)
Last year I started seeing full page ads in my comics for a horror movie called "Monsters", but due to its limited theatrical release and equally limited presence at Blockbuster and Redbox thereafter, I wasn't able to see it... until now.
"Monsters" is an independent film made with only two real actors, the rest being locals who the actors improvised with to get a natural response/performance. The budget for the movie is estimated at between $15,000 and $800,000, which is amazing considering what was accomplished.
The story centers on a photographer who is ordered by his newspaper to escort the head honcho's daughter home to America from Mexico. The catch is that giant alien life forms came to earth 6 years ago, and much of Mexico is part of a quarantine zone in which the massive creatures roam free and sometimes attack humans.
What makes this movie especially unique is its equal blend of romantic drama and alien horror. You might find it listed under "horror" or "sci-fi" on Amazon or Netflicks, but much of the movie is about two characters thrown together who begin to develop a romantic relationship amid challenging circumstances. The aliens are creepy and there are a couple of great suspense scenes, but there is virtually no blood or even much violence. If you're expecting the pacing of your average alien horror flick, you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for a romantic drama involving exotic world travel, you'll be freaked out. It's not fully either of those, but a 50/50 blend of both. The pacing might be just a tiny bit slow near the middle, and things might seem a bit too "quiet" at times since the score is so sparse, but otherwise everything moves along nicely. This is the movie to ease your girlfriend/wife into sci-fi/horror flicks with.
Performances by the two leads are very good, though not fantastic. Especially impressive are some of the supporting characters. They don't have any of those "actor-vibes" that seasoned screen actors give off and that we take for granted. They are just real people. At first, I thought it was some amazing casting that brought to light some of the best talent available in Mexican cinema. It wasn't until watching the included documentary that I learned these people weren't actors, just cleverly directed/edited locals. (Wow!)
The special effects are also very solid and on par with anything a big budget flick would normally churn out. Many of the best effects might go unnoticed, unless you remember that Mexico has NOT been ravaged by giant alien attacks. Decimated buildings and the giant wreckage of vehicles pepper the scenery with fantastic realism. There may not be as much quantity in alien visual effects shots, but the quality is certainly there.
Although I don't think the movie is likely to inspire much worthwhile discussion, the subject of fidelity is one that could be put on the table. Both of the lead characters demonstrate a lack of commitment in relationships while moving closer to each other as the movie progresses. He is willing to have a one night stand with a random woman when the female lead doesn't respond to his advances, and she seems unwilling or unable to talk to her fiancee(an off-screen character we never see) about the obvious reluctance she has to move forward with their wedding.
"Monsters" may find it's audience more with those who appreciate the unique pacing and genre-blending possible in independent film. If you pepare your expectations a little, this is one movie that is really worth seeing.
Rated R for language.