Books & Film

Drama monsters

I watched the most unusual movie the other day.  It’s called Monsters, and it involves, well, enormous monsters from outer space.  But it’s not a single-minded monster movie, not in the way that, say, Cloverfield is.  Instead, it lives in a rather underpopulated genre of its own: the dramance, guest starring monsters.  It’s also an incredibly obvious allegory for the ugly immigration debates that have occurred in America over the last few years.  That would normally be a weakness — such obviousness — but the injection of truly gorgeous creatures in a beautifully realized north Mexican wasteland turns this into a terribly interesting tale.

Gigantic aliens crash landed in north Mexico 6 years before the start of the film.  They have since spread throughout Baja California, Sonora, Chihuaha, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas — former Mexican states now known as the infected zone.  The area is under military quarantine, with explosive border skirmishes and bombing missions into the zone fairly common.  There are a lot of interesting plot details I won’t ruin, but the long and short of it is that two Americans in Mexico south of the infected zone need to get north — back to America. Drama and monster-osity ensue.

I learned after seeing the film that it was made for $15,000 and had a crew of 2.  This makes the movie even more impressive: while I watched it, I thought it was in the same class of effects, sound, editing, and cinematography as Cloverfield or District 9.  I have no idea how they did it.

There are times when the drama aspects drag the movie into a lull — the relationship between characters played by Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able is interesting, but not always thrilling enough to warrant the amount of time director Gareth Edwards spends on it.  Scoot McNairy is very charming. He’s apparently been in dozens of TV shows and movies, but this is the first time I’d seen him, and I quite liked what he brought to the tale.

Now that I know Monsters was made for 0.0006% of Cloverfield‘s budget, by fewer people than it takes to fit in a minivan, I’ll have to buy and watch it again.  I’m always happy to reward that kind of resourcefulness and imagination.

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