Monsters

I love monster movies, especially those about monsters who are big and stupid, who leave a massive path of destruction in their wake, including a dead body or two if necessary, but nary a drop of blood anywhere. So I really liked the monsters in Monsters. They are like huge ambulatory octopuses who feed on electricity so they light up like Christmas yard reindeer. With their long arms they can wreak damage far from their bodies, including reaching up and dragging down 747s. They are pretty good monsters, but what makes them memorable is the incredible, haunting sound effects they make, especially in the end.

But good monsters do not make a good movie. In some ways, Monsters is a terrible movie. It makes so sense, has no geographic coherence, the two leads are unlikeable, the dialogue is atrocious and you don’t really get to see enough of the monsters. But in some strange way, possibly because one person — Gareth Edwards–served as director, writer, cinematographer, production designer and special effects creator, gives the mess some overall unity–it ends up bizarrely interesting. All done for less than a million dollars. And shot on location in Texas, Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Guatemala, without a script. Weird way to make a movie but for a lot of critics and fans, it seems to have worked. For some people, the film even has metaphysical meaning. Go figure.

The story, what it is: Six years ago NASA sent a probe to Jupiter and when it crashed back on Earth, little extraterrestrials began to thrive and quickly became big monsters. So this huge swath of Mexico and southern U.S. became the “Infected Zone” left to the monsters while international armies try to keep them quarantined.

Samantha (Whitney Able), daughter of a wealthy publisher, is in Mexico running away from her fiancé, and is injured in a monster attack. Sent to rescue her is photojournalist Andrew, who hopes to get some award-winning, highly saleable photos of monster destruction. The two of them suffer the usual trials of wayfarers–passports and money are stolen, guides misguide them, ferries are full–and they find themselves heading north on foot. Where they find food and water is beyond me, and also beyond me is why they wear no sun or bug protection and how they can walk for many miles without a band-aid in sight. Nevertheless that’s what they do and they run into monster victims and wastelands and various scary adventures all along the way. I doubt an allegory to illegal migration was intended but it’s there anyway.

If you’re a sci-fi and monster fan, you’ve already seen Monsters. For the rest of us, it’s probably best to wait until it comes out on DVD, for at least then you’ll have some extra features that might make the film more comprehensible.

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