a review by Nalini Haynes
Writer and Director: Gareth Edwards
Release: 2011 on DVD and BluRay
Monsters opens with Andrew Kaulder, a photographer, searching for Samantha Wynden, the daughter of his boss who was in Mexico on holiday. Sam was injured in an ‘incident’ with an alien that resulted in the destruction of her hotel. NASA had found alien DNA in space and brought it back to Earth for study, however the space shuttle broke up on re-entry, releasing this DNA into the atmosphere. The infected zone is marked on maps like a country, running through northern Mexico and southern USA.
Andrew finds Sam in hospital, with her wrist wrapped up but otherwise well. Andrew reports back to his supervisor that he found Sam. He is instructed to escort her safely home. Andrew refuses, arguing because he needs to photograph an alien in order to further his career. Andrew takes Sam to buy a ticket on a ferry to take her back to the USA and safety. After purchasing this ticket, they go out to celebrate. After Sam turns down Andrew, he finds another woman with which to occupy the night. This predictably ends with their money, passports and ferry tickets being stolen, so they have to travel through the infected zone to get to the US. This is where the predictability of the movie ends.
Everywhere Andrew and Sam travel there is evidence of the ‘alien invasion’; quarantine signs, warning signs marking the infection zone, and gas mask signs similar to those in WW2 in Britain are everywhere. Street art also reveals the impact of this ‘alien invasion’ on the lives of locals. The scenery is littered with demolished buildings including portions of the aliens who were killed during air strikes. As they travel into the infected zone the scenery changes, with less buildings but occasional debris as evidence of the destructive nature of the conflict in process.
The viewer learns more about the aliens, not from scientists as has become somewhat cliché, but from laypeople who have observed the alien lifecycle in process and have learned to live alongside the aliens to some extent. Some of the scenes are fascinating and even somewhat beautiful. Alien song acts as a threatening soundtrack increasing tension throughout their journey.
Suspense is developed well throughout this story that reads somewhat as a travel dialogue with horror overtones. The finale is unexpected, an excellent conclusion to a unique alien invasion story. I think this is excellent science fiction and a must see.
Monsters won Best Director at the 2010 British Independent Film Awards and was officially selected for the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival.
Previously published in Dark Matter issue 4, July 2011, blog post predated to reflect the original publication date.