Blu-Review: Monsters

Directed By Gareth Edwards
Starring Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able



Monsters isn’t really a monster movie, at least not in the action-filled ‘Cloverfield meets District 9′ sense that you might have expected. To go into the film with misguided expectations and get bogged down in what Gareth Edwards’ film isn’t would be losing sight of the fact that it’s a much more interesting and unique beast – a beautiful road movie romance that just happens to unfold in a world where much of America is being swarmed by gigantic Lovecraftian alien creatures.

It’s been six years since a NASA probe sent into space in search of alien life re-entered Earth’s orbit and crashed in Central America, bringing with it new alien life forms which began to grow and wreak havoc on the local environment. Much of Mexico has since been sealed off and designated a quarantine zone while the military struggle to contain the destructive octopus-like creatures. Amidst the chaos, a photojournalist (Scoot McNairy) working in the infected zone is tasked with escorting his boss’s daughter (Whitney Able) out of the area and back to the safety of the US.
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Much of the success of Monsters is owed to Edwards’ delicate touch in every facet of the film. Where his movie does bear comparison to District 9 is in how well Edwards crafts a believable, lived-in world – an alternate, alien-ravaged version of Mexico that feels only slightly removed from reality and completely plausible. What’s more impressive is that it’s a world crafted with subtle brushwork both figurative and literal, furnished with little background details and scenery like a derailed train or public service billboards to flesh out this worn, beaten, yet beautiful alternate reality immensely. With a refreshing lack of exposition, Edwards simply drops us in and lets us experience this place for ourselves along with the characters, conveying infinitely more than reams of dialogue trying to jam the reality of the story down our throats ever could.

It’s a subtlety that extends to the romance, too. This isn’t a love story filled with grand romantic gestures and saccharine dialogue, but one which evolves organically through quiet, gentle moments and natural chemistry between the leads, and is far more effective as a result. The romance and the story at large would fall flat without great leads to carry it, so it’s a relief that Scoot McNairy (star of the strangely similar, yet monster-free improv indie romance In Search of a Midnight Kiss) and Whitney Able (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane) do a fantastic job. Both display heaps of natural talent and chemistry, selling the subtle, sometimes poignant character work with impressive finesse, while the improv-heavy nature of the dialogue only helps the film and its characters feel entirely real.
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The most stunning achievement, though, is how much Edwards manages with limited resources. With a tiny budget, the resourceful director has put together an effects-heavy film that looks absolutely phenomenal. Unlike Cloverfield or District 9, this isn’t a film that skews towards thrilling action, instead the CGI work is mostly put to use augmenting reality and crafting awe-inspiring scenery and spectacle, like a colossal concrete wall separating the US from Mexico viewed from atop an Aztec pyramid. While you shouldn’t go into Monsters expecting wall-to-wall creature attacks, there are a few majorly tense scenes that put Edwards’ gargantuan alien beasts to fantastic use; his approach feels almost Spielbergian, not just in the restraint he displays in showing the monsters, but in the way the alien appearances cleverly pay homage to the Jaws director’s work, with a thrilling Jurassic Park-style jeep attack and a perfectly-executed fin-in-the-water scene. They don’t show up often, but when they do, the Lovecraftian aliens are by turns scary, awe-inspiring and strangely beautiful.

More Before Sunrise than Cloverfield, Monsters is nonetheless a haunting, beautiful film peppered with scary, intense moments. Gareth Edwards’ incredible talent and astonishing use of limited resources and guerilla filmmaking techniques results in a film that feels raw yet perfectly crafted. Blending a poignant, tender, subtle romance with intelligent sci-fi to amazing effect and somehow achieving A-grade CGI on a miniscule budget, Monsters is a resounding triumph of indie ingenuity.
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Monsters arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Vertigo films with an attractive high-definition transfer and and an impressively effective DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. A descriptive audio track and English subtitles are also included.

  • Audio Commentary with Gareth Edwards, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
  • A track from the director and the two leads provides a wonderfully informative, engaging and entertaining listen that covers a wealth of info.

  • Behind The Scenes
  • This 1 hour 10 minute feature follows Edwards throughout the production, from the planning stages on, offering a fun and in-depth insight into the guerilla filmmaking style he put to use in making the film.

  • Editing Monsters
  • Clocking in at around 22 minutes, this feature jumps into the problems faced with editing a movie that was almost completely improvised and filmed in such a free-form way.

  • Monsters VFX
  • An extensive and engrossing 35 minute look at Edwards’ work crafting Hollywood-level CG on store-bought computers and software, along and an ill-fated attempt at some bathtub miniature model work.

  • Factory Farmed (with optional Gareth Edwards introduction)
  • Edwards’ 5 minute short film made for the Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge 2008.

  • Trailer

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The special features are substantial and fascinating, and for a film that’s constructed with such impressive results on a shoestring budget, it’s great that they delve into every aspect of the movie-making process. All in all, it’s a stacked disc for a fantastic film.

The Film:

The Blu-ray:




Monsters is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK now.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.

(Note: The images above were captured and saved at a reduced quality, and though they give an idea of how the film looks, they aren’t intended to reflect the true quality of the Blu-ray image itself.)