Monsters released on Blu-ray

Tuesday, 12 April 2011 00:00

If you are going to do a movie about an alien invasion, chances are that the potential backers will look at you and think twice, simply because of the costs involved.  Step forward new auteur Gareth Edwards, who found a way to script and direct a production in such a way that the costs are kept to a minimum, but the drama and suspense is cranked up to cover the budgetary shortfalls.

“Monsters” is an unqualified success on all fronts.  There are just two major roles in the film, with the end credits making play of the fact that everyone else is just supporting the leading duo. The story is told from their point of view, and even when the male lead has a one-night-stand, all we see of his conquest are her ankles and thighs beneath a sheet. And it’s only in retrospect that you realise where the corners and costs have been cut.

Monsters - a small budget gem on Blu-ray and DVDA NASA probe has been sent to collect samples from Europa, Jupiter’s moon. Unfortunately, upon its return to Earth, it crash-lands in Central America. From the wreckage, strange new life forms begin to appear in the area, forcing half of Mexico to be quarantined as an infected zone. Fast forward six years, and American and Mexican military forces are struggling to contain the fully-grown alien creatures. Worst still, they are going to have their work cut out controlling their seasonal migration within the zone.

In the midst of the chaos caused by what has become an unusually early migration season, photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is hoping to get at least one ‘money shot’ – the creatures in action, preying on a human. But his boss, a publisher, has fears for his back-packing daughter Sam (Whitney Able), who is believed to be stranded in the area. Kaulder finds himself co-opted into ensuring her safe passage through Mexico to the safety of the US border.

The winner of the Best Director, Best Achievement in Production and Best Technical Achievement awards at the 2010 British Independent Film Awards, and recently nominated for the BAFTA award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, “Monsters” was written, filmed and directed by Emmy nominated and BAFTA award winning CGI animator Gareth Edwards (“Perfect Disasters”, “Hiroshima”). This is his debut feature, and is quoted as saying that he “wanted to make a love story that didn’t make you cringe, as well as a sci-fi movie where the premise wasn’t totally unbelievable”.

The Sunday Express went a little overboard, describing this debut as “a hugely impressive disaster-come-road movie that conveys almost Spielbergian promise”. Other reviews were equally enthusiastic - Empire magazine said it was “a sci-fi picture which never loses sight of the human factor… an amazing achievement”, Total Film described it as “the most audacious debut since ‘The Blair Witch Project’”, the Financial Times got really hip when describing it as “a lollapalooza… so edgy it hardly needs monsters… a masterpiece of high-amp anxiety”, and the Sunday Mirror almost managed to string the ultimate summation together by saying it was “a road trip blending romance with sci-fi thrills”.

The original Box Office in the USA was pitiful; it only played at a maximum of 25 sites in its nine weeks on release between October and December 2010.  However, when given a better run via UK cinemas, the gross here just about overtook the film’s meagre $800,000 budget, therefore bringing it into profitability thanks to us Brits alone. It played at 164 UK sites in its first week (3 December 2010), and managed to make 5th place in the films of the week. Unfortunately, it was gone from UK cinemas by Christmas.

This is a film that relies on characterisation over action. The special effects available are used frugally, and when we see the monsters they are sufficiently convincing and other-worldly for the movie to keep on the rails of believability. For those looking for metaphors, it would be easy to seize on the wall erected between Mexico and the USA - being there to signify the sort of barrier some American patriots are wanting between their populations.  However, that’s not the right riff to play.

If there is any allegory to be drawn it is over Genetic Modification. The creatures use trees to help their young to grow and hatch. From that point on, the genie is out of the bottle, and as in the real world, GM life-forms will wreak havoc on everything else around them. This is the warning you should take from the movie – we have no idea the dangers that are being let loose by narcissistic scientists and those who are funding them.

Special Features include:

  • Audio commentary by Gareth Edwards, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able;
  • Behind the Scenes featurette;
  • Editing Monsters featurette;
  • Monsters VFX featurette;
  • “Factory Farmed” – short film by Gareth Edwards.

“Monsters” is out now from Vertigo Films. It has a running time of 93 minutes approx, a ‘12’ certificate, and is out on DVD (£17.99) and Blu-ray (£19.99) or get it for less at

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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