Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monsters


[ Update: I stand corrected about some of what I say below, specifically my doubt that the film achieves many of its aims via CGI and that "plenty of it seems to have involved actual intervention in the locations that would have involved a great deal of planning and logistics." It seems so, yes, but having now viewed the Blu-Ray extras I can see that I was quite mistaken. And also let me say I'm really excited for Gareth Edwards to be helming the latest Godzilla in 2014! --MH, October 2013 ]

I recently spent a sick day watching a bunch of movies, and was happy to stumble across this one on streaming Netflix. Released in 2010, Monsters seems to have slipped through the cracks for the most part. Which is too bad. It's worthwhile viewing for fans of that all-too-rare artifact, the intelligent monster movie.

The film takes place in a large swath of Mexico near the border with the U.S. A returning space probe has somehow left this area "infected" by enormous tentacled beings, for the most part glimpsed as incidental/ peripheral phenomena. A photojounralist (Scoot McNairy) must transport his boss' daughter (Whitney Able) through the infected zone back to the U.S. I won't reveal too much more of the plot; suffice to say the film draws intriuging parallels between the human characters and their monstrous foils (the latter of which we get to know a little better by the end). The characters are well drawn, the cinematography hand-held verite with a magic-hour meditative sensibility.

Indeed, the film impresses technically given meager means. Its imdb page estimates $800,000 as the budget, and claims it was "made with a crew consisting of only two people using 'off the shelf' $8,400 cameras, editors, digital effects programs and other such equipment." I'll buy that, though I'm a little skeptical that "settings featured in the film were real locations often used without permission". My doubt arises from what I like most about the film-- the art direction portrays the alien "infestation" as having integrated into daily life by means of weathered signs and murals, ominous wreckage, and glimpses of news footage. I'm sure some of it could be CGI, but plenty of it seems to have involved actual intervention in the locations that would have involved a great deal of planning and logistics.

But no matter. I love monsters and I love film, and this movie offers otherworldly creatures emblematic of compelling ideas. And that, my friends, is how a monster move oughta be!

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