All About Monsters

I had a chance to see "Monsters" today, a great new indie science fiction film written and directed by Gareth Edwards and produced on a shoestring budget. I came away extremely impressed with the film, not just as a good first film or a good low-budget indie effort, but rather, as a good film period.

Here's the official summary of the film:

In 2009 NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A probe was launched to collect samples from Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, but it crashed upon re-entry over Central America. Soon after, new life forms began to appear there and half of Mexico was quarantined as an Infected Zone. Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain the extraterrestrial "creatures." After six years, they’re no longer aliens—they're residents. The story begins when U.S. photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy,In Search of a Midnight Kiss) agrees to escort a shaken American tourist Sam Wynden (Whitney Able) through the Infected Zone in Mexico to the safety of the U.S. border.

Gareth Edwards, a UK visual effects expert with a background in creating special effects for documentaries, wrote the film and shot the footage on a micro-budget in real-life locations, including Mexico, Guatemala, Galveston and other places. Footage shot in Galveston after Hurricane Katrina is used to good advantage in the film and helps provide a "big-picture" feel to the scenes of devastation caused by the alien infestation.

Critical reception to the film has been somewhat lukewarm, but my impression is that most of the critics don't actually get the film. It's a science fiction drama that concentrates on the human drama and uses the film's basic premise to focus a light on a current political issues. It's slow-paced, but I felt that helped ratchet up the tension, enhanced the reality of the character experiences and heightened the impact when the alien creatures finally manifest themselves in the film.

Bottom Line: It's a genuinely good film, with a solid story, a well-imagined premise, some visually stunning cinematography and good overall execution. If you're the kind of person who thinks Transformers 2 was a good movie, then this is not the film for you. Otherwise, I recommend the film to anybody who's looking for a unique drama with a little bit of bite to it.

It's currently playing in only 12 indie-oriented theaters in the U.S, although it's now due to open wider on November 12th. Go see it. The movie deserves a much wider audience.


David Keener By dkeener on Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 04:12 PM EST

On November 12th, it expanded to about 25 theaters in the US. It's still only showing at the E Street Cinema in the Washington DC area. Interestingly, it's also available for viewing on DirectTV and iTunes.

David Keener By dkeener on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 06:39 PM EST

It was filmed on a Sony EX3 with a Nikon 50 MM Lens. They used almost exclusively natural light, except for a couple tiny LED lights for when it was pitch black. Special effects were done in Adobe CS4, and edited in Premiere. The majority of filming was shot with just a sound guy, the director and the 2 main characters

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