Hidden within the plethora of movie streaming services are true gems; Streaming Obscura seeks to shine some light on the films you might otherwise miss.
You really need a bit of context before watching Monsters. Director Gareth Edwards was 34 when he started filming the movie. The budget for the film has been estimated at $300,000 – which makes the film’s completion somewhat of an achievement in of itself. Making a massive monster movie for less money than a major studio spends to make their monster blink, is pure insanity. To achieve this, Edwards did all of the VFX himself, hired a husband/wife acting team who could be super flexible for the guerrilla shoot, and employed a traveling crew of FIVE people! The result is a film that looks and feels better than any monster movie in recent memory. The exception being Cloverfield, which seems to have inspired a lot of what Monsters tries to accomplish. The Film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival on 13 March 2010, and was purchased that week by Magnolia’s horror division Magnet Picture. This ultimately led to Edwards getting the gig as director of this years Godzilla remake.
However, the film is not perfect. Budget issues aside, Edwards made some choices that just kind of bug me. The term “phoning it in” literally applies to every scene in this film that involves a phone conversation. If you are filming a scene where the “mega corporate boss” character is talking to the protagonist(“Kaulder”) about how you need to bring his adult daughter back to safety, then the corporate boss character should sound like he’s older than 17. Oh, and it would also help if he stopped reading his lines off of a piece of paper in a monotone voice. This happens a couple times, and it really makes the movie FEEL cheap for a few seconds. Thankfully, in the later scenes Edwards makes the choice of having all phone conversations be one sided – which could have easily worked for the earlier scene; mega boss dad’s dialogue adds nothing to the film.
Monsters is actually a cool film, it just suffers from the kinds of things you’d expect from a movie made on such little money. The end result is a neat indie film that is one part beautiful travelogue, one part aliens, and one part commentary on globalization.
Let’s start with the travelogue… So the above mentioned Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is a photographer who works for mega boss dad’s media corporation and he has to get precious daughter Sam (Whitney Able) back to America. Sam is for some reason hanging out in the most dangerous part of the world (THE INFECTED ZONE), instead of being home with her fiancé, who she clearly hates. All while Kaulder just wants to snap some sweet pics, bang chicks, and make that money. Well, actually he does a lot of talking about getting pictures of the aliens, but never seems interested in snapping a picture of one. Oh, Yeah… and a few years ago a space probe accidentally brought aliens back to Earf and they took over all of Central America.
Sorry, like I said. Travelogue. I really think Edwards was inspired by Lost In Translation, mainly because this film really feels like a Sofia Coppola monster movie. Sam is essentially the same exact character as Scarlett Johanson’s Charlotte – and Kaulder does at times feel like a disconnected Bill Murray. The film needs to be praised for how it captures the culture of Central America. It makes you want to be there with the characters, through the use of beautiful handheld shots and sweeping dolly shots (which where actually captured by Edwards sitting his camera on a crumbled T-shirt in the windowsill of a slow moving van). The best part about this is how great of a job they did at integrating the “Infected Zone” mythos into this beautiful culture. It never feels forced the way it does in most post-apocalyptic movies. It always adds to the scenery instead of detracting from it.
The aliens… wait, we call them “The Creatures” around here. So not much is known about these bad boys, other than the fact that they are huge land dwelling octopi that kind of kill people but kind of don’t. They are actually sort of benign compared to most monsters in movies. There is one pretty scary scene (below) that is without a doubt an homage to Jurassic Park. There is also a pretty annoying scene where Kaulder gets off their boat while the creature makes a creature noise in the jungle, and they all stand there staring at the trees saying “what is that!?” – gee… I wonder if it’s the huge fucking creatures that we’ve been talking about for the last 90 minutes. Other than that the film does a great job with suspense. I can actually see Guillermo Del Toro watching this and thinking to himself: “I can do this so much better!” Then making Pacific Rim and failing miserably. My fantasy goes on to include him falling into that big glowing vagina he put at the bottom of the ocean… but… I digress.
“You know it’s different looking at America from the outside looking in” There is nothing I love more in my Sci-Fi than a big baseball bat of social commentary to smash me in the face (Avatar… is that you?). Sam and Kaulder are sitting on top of an ancient Aztec pyramid looking at the pristine colossal structure (“The Wall”) that the American’s built to keep the aliens (ILLEGALS) out, all while Kaulder waxes poetic about how they will all be “in our like perfect suburban homes.” The symbolism is so heavy, it broke my back. This actually makes you stop and think for a second… If we call the aliens “creatures”… than who are the titular Monsters????
OH THE HUMANITY!!!!
Also, there’s a scene where two glowing aliens fuck in a gas station parking lot.
You can stream Monsters on Netflix here.