Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Reputedly made for $15 000, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi film might be the future of cinema, but I would like a little more proof please...

Let me start by saying that I'm all for people being ballsy enough to go out there and just film something but I will have to judge it on the result of the final film and I have a lot of mixed feelings.

Let's get all the money stuff out the way. In case you don't know, director Gareth Edwards is a visual effects artist, which means he's bloody good at putting together some CG crap and has made a sci-fi, slightly scary film which is really about two people 'finding each other'. Apparently the crew consisted of just two people and anyone else in it was just there on the day, all locations are real and it was all shot, edited and created on what you can pick up in any store. Well, let's just say I'd like to see the receipts. Having gone into this knowing these facts, that in itself almost ruined the film for me as I was constantly laughing at how it could get made so cheap but remain how it is.

Firstly, let's forget about the CG, which in itself would take ages and even though it's really good, the aliens can look pretty crap sometimes, it's lucky they generally come out at night. But there are shots of cars getting crushed, a lot of people with guns, tanks everywhere, buildings completely demolished, lots of rubble and a lot of travelling via different ways. I cannot see how they were able to do this unless someone sat me through it because either these CG tanks, military, explosions etc were the most realistic effects I've seen or they were real, and then I still don't get it, surely travelling it all around would cost more than $15k in itself?

This idea of filming on such a budget is more of a marketing ploy than anything. I don't know the relationship it has with Vertigo films, but that company isn't exactly small so it's not as if they couldn't put more money into it. Also if you look at the crew list, there's a lot of people working on the sound, an extras casting director and more. I could be wrong though, maybe 90% of the work was done in the editing room and that the $15k was just how much the location shoot turned out to be. Either way, the whole 'how did they do this for 15k?' game ruined the experience slightly for me, which is a shame because it's not a great experience anyway.

Comparisons will undoubtedly be made to District 9 (infected zone, misunderstood aliens, amateur director) but really this is a road movie. I enjoy films where it's a small story in the grander scheme of things - even Spielberg knew this during War of The Worlds (where one bit is copied in this), and this is clearly less about the aliens and more about the personal journey of the two characters, Sam and Andrew.

The general story is that something from NASA crashed on it's way back to the States in Mexico or something and now these weird sea-alien-creatures have popped up wreaking havoc. A big publicist wants his daughter (Sam) to come back to the States and it's the responsibility of one of his photographers (Andrew) down there to escort her back, then things go a little wrong and they end up having to trek back through the 'infected zone' to reach the States.

The main problem is everything moves so slowly. The story is broken up by trying to put in the odd alien sighting or them watching TV footage of aliens but the whole time you're waiting for the action to get going, it's not until the final scene where you get some kind of pay-off, and it's the lamest pay-off ever. Even though this is about two people falling in love, it's also a social commentary on America. The way the country has closed itself in, how the characters say how strange it is being outside of it looking in compared to being inside, how the real threat is seemingly from the American military trying to kill the creatures using gas rather than the creatures themselves, the media's lust for violent images and the country's general xenophobia. What makes it strange is that the monsters are almost electrical and 'feed' off the televisions, again another statement on how America's media almost 'feeds' the monsters, perhaps thus being the monsters themselves.

Either way, the monsters aren't the real focus of the film, Sam and Andrew are generally well thought out characters, more so Andrew than Sam. Throughout the film Andrew is flirtatious, rude, abrupt and impatient, perhaps like a typical man but there is a more sensitive side to him that Sam can see. Sam, however, puts on a strong front but really she's having a difficult time with the idea of settling down and there's no real indication of why she's down there anyway or why she has hurt her hand, which perhaps leaves the audience to think up a better reason than one that time could have been wasted on in the film. I thought more time was spent exploring Andrew's character and that Sam might have needed some more fleshing out, but generally the idea of two people trying to survive through an alien war zone was creative and original. However, it perhaps could have got away with them trying to get through anything because in the end, the aliens didn't really matter but to try and make the film more interesting and scary, which it didn't do too well. The last shot is also reminiscent with what happens only moments before (I won't give it away) suggesting that at the end of the day, all living creatures are the same. What a lovely image. Kind of.

I liked the way the film looked, the directing wasn't too in-your-face leaving room for the CG to make a more lasting impression, which I'm guessing was the desired effect, but the landscapes, the sheer feeling of survival and script were all very positive. I just wished they did have more money to really give it that kick that it so desperately needs. Even though it's a brave attempt and, if true, it's absolutely commendable that it was made on such a low budget, which I'll give it an extra point for but it fails to leave any lasting impression rather than a wish that it had more bite because, in the end, it was really just a love story. Which a film called Monsters should perhaps not be called because I think a lot of horror/gore/sci-fi fans are going to walk out disappointed. I know I did.

Rating: 6/10

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