As a movie title, Monsters is highly misleading. As a story, it could almost have passed for a chick flick. But as an overall movie package, it was understated in conception, gritty in evolution and excellent in execution.

Six years ago, NASA, the poster-child of extra terrestrial boo-boos, sent a probe to collect samples of potential life in the Solar System. Upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, the probe crashed, presumably spilling it's contents into the dense jungles of Central America. Whatever was in the probe, rapidly evolved into large tentacled aliens that infected the region between the US and Mexico. The entire area is now cordoned off and the populace on either side of the infected zone is slowly coming to terms with living in an alien-infested world. And these aliens, by the way, are the large octopus-like namesake monsters.

Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is a photo journalist in uninfected Mexico, who is unsuccessfully looking for a story within the biggest event in Earth's history. As luck would have it, the daughter of the owner of his publication, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), is injured in a recent Monster attack. As a result he is commandeered to check on her and make sure she is on her way back to the US. On their way back, they miss the last ferry for the next six months out of Mexico, and decide to instead take the land route back to the country. And this route, unsurprisingly, passes through the quarantined area.

As they bribe their way into a passage back to America in this new twist on fence jumping, the two encounter the infection, terror, attacks and beauty. During the process, they also discover each other.

The movie is luxuriously slow in progressing the story, but rarely feels cumbersome. It is no adventure quest movie, but instead it is trained squarely on the humans finding their footing in the new world. Shot entirely through hand-held camera, the movie has a very strong documentary feel to it, but thankfully eschews ugly fast-paced shaking for more refined movements. Some of the scenes around the enterprise that has sprung up against the background of suffering is well portrayed, forming the intellectual bulwark for the story. Music naturally forms a big part of both the narrative and the backdrop, successfully building the base to create an absorbing if not tense feel to the movie.

Alien and Science Fiction are evolving past the combative alien narrative and the apocalyptic destruction movies into the more mundane coexistence narratives. District 9 was a great example, and Monsters is a worthy inclusion into that list. The key to this movie is expectations; keep them low. For it isn't much of a genre movie as it is a well put together tale, in a world that could realistically come true.

April 03, 2011


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