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Monsters is not your typical big budget, special effects driven alien invasion film

Monsters is not your typical big budget, special effects driven alien invasion film along the lines of Independence Day, Cloverfield, The War Of The Worlds, and the recent Skyline. This low-budget alien invasion movie combines elements of those sci-fi films, but is more of a mood piece than a special effects-driven action yarn. It also cleverly eschews most of the usual clichés of the genre. Apart from a frantic opening scene in which a military convoy encounters alien creatures, there is very little action here. Supposedly, six years ago a NASA probe brought back to Earth evidence of alien life. However, it crashed in the jungles of Central America. The US military and the Mexican authorities quickly established a quarantine “no-go” zone, and have since been struggling to try and contain the alien creatures. Photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is asked to escort his boss’s daughter Sam (Whitney Able) out of the dangerous area. The pair tries to cross the no man’s land of the infected zone that covers most of Latin America. The film is also something of a character study, as romance blossoms between the couple.

Emmy-nominated visual effects specialist Gareth Edwards has worked on the effects for a number of BBC television documentaries (Space Race, Seven Wonders Of The Industrial World). For his feature film debut he has written, directed, produced, edited and produced the visual effects all in his own small home studio. The visual effects are flawlessly integrated into the film. The alien creatures are also quite spectacularly realised and sparingly used throughout the film.

Monsters is also part road movie, and Edwards shot the movie guerilla-style in Belize, Costa Rica and Guatemala, and he uses these exotic locations and alien terrains effectively. Instead of the voracious and aggressive alien invaders of most sci-fi films of this genre, Edwards’s aliens are more benign, and just want to be left alone. McNairy and Able often improvised their dialogue, and it sometimes shows in the stilted delivery. The pair have an off screen relationship, which is often reflected in the on-screen rapport. The rest of the cast has largely been drawn from locals, and their natural performances somehow enhance the drama.

Monsters is a superb calling card from the multi-talented Edwards, and it will be interesting to see what he does next.