I can imagine that many a mindless moron rented or purchased this title expecting the usual masturbatory excesses of modern CGI, and the hollow spectacle of alien marauders laying waste to mankind. One can well imagine the disappointment of the retards when Monsters develops into a subtle and nuanced character driven narrative that is far more concerned with humanity than it is showing off its visual effects. The sparing attitude to special effects allows the uncluttered narrative an opportunity to develop in interesting ways and retain an emotional core that might have been lost amid the artificiality of modern filmmaking techniques. Monsters also distinguishes itself in the creative control wielded by newcomer Gareth Edwards. British filmmaker Edwards not only wrote and directed Monsters but also acted as cinematographer, production designer and created many of the visual effects. This was also Edwards’ first feature film and he imbues it with a fearless impetuosity and an impressive awareness of the genre it sits within. It is perhaps a little too early to think of Edwards as an auteur, but this level of creative control is most unusual in genre filmmaking, and signifies to me at least, that the career of Edwards will be worth keeping an eye on. It will be interesting to see if Edwards is able to maintain this when the big budget investment of American producers inevitably comes his way.
For much of the film they are an unseen menace, and we are offered brief and tantalising glimpses, and this helps build the tension and suspense. Edwards shows a remarkable amount of patience, and the actors effectively convey a sense of alienated awe. The two leads are the only professional actors in the film, Edwards' decision to populate the film with non-professionals is an arty touch, but never once are the veracity of the performances in question. The film ends in a curious fashion after our unwitting heroes have negotiated the giant border wall that is supposed to keep the US free of infection. What they find on the other side is a depressing empty ghost town, a sign that for all their technological and military might the US are ultimately unable to control their borders from the invaders. The benevolent nature of the alien creatures is confirmed by a moving finale which sees two of them mating, a wonderful ritual which shows that love springs in even the hardiest of circumstances. A sign that confirms to Sam and Andrew that their love can withstand the pressures it is about to endure, and ultimately makes them thankful for the journey they have just undertaken. Monsters is a rare British science-fiction film that is destined to become an essential title.
© Shaun Anderson 2011