Gareth Edwards debut feature opens with a frenetic night vision shot showing army troops taking on a giant alien monster squid. From these first few frames you could be confused in thinking you where watching a Cloverfield cover version. However once the film gets going you will find that this Sci-Fi horror is one of the most original, impressive and moving pieces of cinema to appear this year.
No mean feat considering Edwards directed, wrote and filmed the movie on a low budget with a small crew; getting the actors to improvise and making all the spectacular special effects himself on his lap top.
Part monster movie, part road movie, part romance, this excellent story is set six years after a NASA probe returning to Earth with samples of alien organisms crashed over Central America. This creates new life forms on our planet and leading to half of Mexico becoming a dangerous quarantine zone.
When a cynical photographer Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is charged with bringing his rich bosses daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) back to the US, they begin a journey which forces them through the infected zone and into the alien’s environment.
Believable and brilliant McNairy and Able (who were a couple in real life when the shooting began and subsequently got married) have amazing chemistry, which is vital considering that they appear in nearly every frame of the film.
Playing complex characters caught up in a world where monsters do exist, their pitch perfect performances help craft a poignant piece which deals with deep themes and strong emotions, delivering on all fronts.
The military’s constant presence and attacks on the creatures along with the giant wall America has built to keep themselves safe evokes images of post 9/11 American paranoia, mixed with present day immigration issues. The constant appearance of children and the effect that the situation has on their lives subtly touches upon environmental concerns and the fated future of our planet.
Made on the hoof across Mexico, Belize and Guatemala this is a modern day War of the Worlds. The comparisons to The Host and The Mist are obvious in the subject matter along with District 9, as like its South African counterpart Monsters manages to look like a Hollywood blockbuster while being made on a fraction of the budget.
Gareth Edwards background in CGI and visual effects led to him crafting all of the amazing special and visual effects himself. And only using software available to the general public, proving an inspiration to all aspiring film makers.
Edwards’ film is a massive achievement and is a wonderful and moving movie that proves that original ideas and artistic talent will always triumph over big budgets and mediocrity – even when you’re making a monster movie.
But now its out for all to enjoy on DVD and Blu-Ray what about the extras?
Made on an ultra low budget, rumoured to be around $15,000, with only 2 cast members, 4 crew members and shot in just 3 months Monsters is a massive achievement and the story behind how it was made is a fascinating journey which is illuminated across the excellent extras available on the DVD and Blu-Ray editions of the film.
Coming with a brilliant full commentary from director Gareth Edwards and the leads Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able along with his excellent Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge short ‘Factory Farmed’ which convinced Vertigo to put up the money for Monsters, there are also several features which go deeper into the film making process including an hour long ‘Behind the Scenes’ documentary.
Featuring lots of unseen footage and interviews with the key contributors we are taken through the filming by the charismatic unassuming Edwards from his original inspiration to the guerrilla style shooting using real people as key characters they did in several South American countries where they captured over 100 hours of footage.
Shaping this epic amount of material into the final film is explained in ‘Editing Monsters’ but most interestingly of all the extras is ‘Monsters VFX’ which details the painstaking process Edwards went through to create the 250 effects shots featured in the film.
Showing us concept sketches, Pre-Vis and finished effects this mammoth task involving everything from the small details, such as changing street signs, to the literally large job of creating and animating the monsters themselves was achieved by Edwards alone on his home computer and is a testament to his talent and creativity which hopefully will inspire all amateur movie makers to go out and make a masterpiece of their own.
With even more extras on the Blu-Ray, and looking even better in HD, Monsters is a must own movie packed with absorbing features that show that with today’s technology all you need is imagination and talent to make a feature film on a shoestring budget which looks like a Hollywood blockbuster.