Yet another aliens Sci-Fi film and yet another monsters titled and themed film but what makes this stand out is that for a low-budget film it packs a big budget punch. This independent film, written, directed, shot and edited by documentary maker and special effects whiz Gareth Edwards, knows how to maximise suspense, plot and an unknown cast. His €12k ($15k) budget film has already earned Edwards comparisons to 'Avatar's James Cameron, not bad when you consider the Oscar winners (€381) $500m budget.
It opens with a proclamation that a NASA probe crash landed six years ago in Mexico resulting in an alien filled 'infected' area. An ambitious photo-journalist Andrew (McNairy) is charged with reluctantly evacuating his bosses' daughter Sam (Able) out of the danger zone and back to the American border. As you might guess, things don't go to plan and they find themselves on a road trip travelling by train, boat, truck and foot through the infected zone.
Edwards brings his own style to the Sci-fi table and despite the misleading title the focus isn't horror and gore, but rather on one couple's road trip and their slow-burning romance set against a backdrop of an alien infestation. Through subtle editing and clever use of sound, there are plenty of jumpy-moments but he gives the creatures the slow reveal, refusing to include more than a glimpse of them in the film's marketing. This of course saves the expense of extensive CGI footage. Eventually they are presented towards the end of the film in their full 15-odd metre tentacles, legs and electricity-filled glory.
Unlike in-your-face sci-fi thriller 'Cloverfield' Edwards' film has a touch of realism, generous pacing and is bewilderingly brilliant looking given the tiny budget.
There are one or two too many coincidences and the blossoming romance comes at a high price as the death toll mounts yet somehow these lovers escape unscathed. Despite the fact that the 'monsters' are said to live and let live, it doesn't take much to antagonise them and at the rate they're procreating, these two might want to up the pace. The fact that they're less than panicked about the future and chat about all the fun things they're going to do when they return home is unsettling. If they aren't taking the alien invasion seriously, why should the audience?
Accompanied by John Hopkins' ambient tunes, the film was shot entirely on location in Mexico and Costa Rica, with great performances from the two-hander cast. The real-life couple, who will reteam for Dan Finkel's comedy 'Everything Will Happen Before You Die', carry the film and are on the screen for the duration. She has a, albeit more earnest, Cameron Diaz style, while he's not your typical good-looking hero yet is very attractive and believable.
The remaining actors are locals and Edwards discovered a gem in Benavides who plays a convincing role as a belligerent ferry ticket seller, deciding the price of life.
'War of the Worlds' meets 'District 9' and 'Cloverfield' with a road trip romance twist, 'Monsters' is an original take on an unoriginal story.