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May 26th, 2018

Monsters Movie Review

TIFF’s International Program hosted the Canadian Premiere of “Monsters”, with writer/director Gareth Edwards in attendance.  The film was the only non-“Midnight Madness” film that I checked out this year, and I was definitely glad I did.

Going into the film, I was thinking about the comments I’ve heard from numerous friends who have seen the advertising campaign, or heard a very rough outline of the movie.  Many heard that the film was about an alien outbreak in a containment zone, and immediately assumed the movie was a rip-off of “District 9”.  The ads do little to address these concerns, as there are numerous posters warning people that they are entering the “Extra-Terrestrial Infected Zone”, which are very reminiscent of the advance posters for District 9.  Believe me when I tell you that this film is very different from District 9 – this film makes absolutely no effort to try and be like District 9, and the only thing that the films have in common is that both feature aliens – then again, so did E.T., and I don’t hear anyone suggesting District 9 is an E.T. rip-off!

Monsters begins six years after a probe with samples of life from inside our solar system crashes into Mexico.  Following the crash massive Lovecraftian creatures emerge, and most of Mexico becomes a containment area for the creatures.  The massive battles against these beasts have already taken place, and the story begins with humans going about their lives with this new normal where giant alien monsters roam much of the land immediately south of the United States.

The story focuses on a photographer who has been assigned to escort his boss’ daughter from Central America back to the United States.  They travel along the Infected Zone to the coast but following a robbery, they miss the last ferry and are forced to travel straight through the Infected Zone in order to get back home.

Monsters is an incredible achievement, and it accomplishes more with its tiny budget than most big studio films could dream of.  The special effects are first rate, and the realistic visuals pull you right into the film where there is a sense of dread at what might be lurking around the corner.

I do want to warn film-goers that the title is misleading.  If you are looking for some hardcore creature carnage you will not find it here.  This is not “Cloverfield” or some “Godzilla” inspired movie.  In fact, during the film’s running time you do not see much of the creatures, and there are maybe a half dozen encounters with the beasts in the entire film.  The movie kicks off with a military strike against one of the aliens but that is the most action in the entire film – and it lasts less than five minutes.  The film is very much a character-driven movie.  The two main characters are extremely well-written and believable.  As we become attached to the characters, we feel the tension as they move through the infected zone – terrified and yet oddly intrigued about what they might encounter on their journey.  It is this sense of tension at what might be there that drives the film, rather than numerous close encounters with the creatures.

If you are expecting a monster movie with lots of action and mayhem you will definitely be disappointed, and you should not spend your money on this film.  If you are prepared for realism, and to discover the aliens through the eyes of characters you genuinely care about, then you have to check this movie out – and see the monster movie reinvented!


  1. Bmccaulley38

    Fantastic movie and great character development throughout. Also, for those of you who havent had the chance to see Whitney Able in anything else, youre definitely missing out on an extremely talented and beautiful young woman who really helps ring the movie to life.

  2. Syntheticmode

    Biggest rip off of 2010. A bad romance movie with tentacles thrown in (most of which are shown in the trailer) to get someone to watch. Nothing happens in this movie. NOTHING.
    Apparently the time line in the movie is over a week. We see tanks smashed, buildings burned out and demolished and ominous signs everywhere. The aliens are 100 foot tall…yet why do we see NONE in the wide angle shots of the countryside?
    The locals know how they are reproducing and show us some…fungus with lights in them. If they know how they reproduce and have lived among the wreckage they monsters have wrought, why in the one night scene in the infected zone do they attempt to attack a 100 ft tall tentacled monster with AK-47s? They’ve lived with jets bombing the countryside with chemicals, soldiers fighting monsters and monsters laying waste to entire cities. Its unbelievable.
    The romance: Ok…I knew it was complete crap when the woman is being hit on incessantly by the man and she turns him down. She is getting married soon y’know. Then the next morning she tries to go and hit him up after some second thoughts about her second thoughts and gets upset because she finds the man in bed with another woman. They’ve known each other LESS than 2 days and she’s upset because he’s with another woman?? Not to mention she’s ENGAGED? Who expects ANYONE to believe this? Who CARES if she’s upset? she’s ENGAGED and he doesn’t have clue one about her. Hell he was a complete ASS the way he blatantly tried to get into her bed the night before KNOWING she was engaged. This is the new romance? Its trash relationships. No wonder the divorce rate is so high.
    Its a low budget lackluster who cares romance with 10-15 minutes of tacked on CGI tentacles to create a bait and switch tactic for viewership.
    100 foot tall Octopi throwing trucks around the country side and we are to believe the CGI fence will keep them out?
    Single iron bar barricades across roads…ok, what’s this serve? To trip the Aliens? To keep people from going in? We’re told early on that the Army is using Chemical agents to fight the Aliens…so who in their right freaking mind would go into a JUNGLE infested with ALIENS and warplanes tossing chemical agents? The woman is having second thoughts about getting married drags this schmuck into what could be the end of their lives only to say at the end “I don’t want to go home”???? WTF? I would have slapped her so hard her face would have been in 4 different zip codes. They could have went south to Brazil got on a plane and flown home first class for the amount of money they spent.
    The reviewer states “Monsters is an incredible achievement, and it accomplishes more with its tiny budget than most big studio films could dream of. The special effects are first rate, and the realistic visuals pull you right into the film where there is a sense of dread at what might be lurking around the corner.” WHEN? I’ve seen better CGI on youtube. The tree fungus with LEDs embedded in them? That’s first rate? Realistic visuals..ok the remains of some of the sky scrapers looked neat..but that’s about all. How does anyone get a sense of dread from whale songs? That’s all the aliens are apparently, big walking octopi that sing whale songs. FEEL THE DREAD!! What a joke. DREAD is hearing the blaring horns from the war machines in ‘War of the Worlds’.
    Seriously, when I read this review after watching the film I figured the author MUST be getting kick backs from the box office take. The movie is a lie from beginning to end. A romance no one gives a flying damn about because they came for the title MONSTERS…and got ZILCH..not even a romance.
    Do yourselves a favor…loop the trailer for 2 hours…you’ll get the EXACT same effect as the movie.

    • Jwp118

      Good for you!!!
      If only you spent half the time thinking back as you did complaining, you may just appreciate it.
      Definitely not a “Monster” film, so rent Godzilla if that’s what you’re after.
      One of the biggest surprises of the year for me and when reading how small a budget this film had behind it, I can only commend it more.

  3. Morepeppersauce

    The title should ” Garbage”

  4. Matty

    This was one of the most interesting movies I’ve seen in years. It’s loosely a sci-fi flick with indie sensibilities and aesthetic. I thought the storyline was clever, the character development was amazing, and most of all it didn’t pander to the audience. IMO this is the film JJ Abrams should have made when he did Cloverfield.

  5. Stephen Riddle

    Strange, queer and a complete waste of the life of my projector lamp.

  6. hyunggyu

    what does this movie mean??
    ideology?? no nothing!!
    the movie goes on full of abstraction that’s it
    .if it more that man and girl they chattering during the movie going on. that’s it

  7. Liz

    did NOT get this movie at all. You’d think the build up was leading to something…it did not. The ending was ridiculous and you definitely feel jipped. Awful. Previous comments were correct – NOTHING happens in this movie…nothing

  8. Wilsondixon

    I’m perplexed by the bitterly negative comments I’ve read here and on other sites. Maybe the people complaining that nothing happened in the movie are paid-up members of the Michael Bay fan club, and get antsy if they have to sit through more than five minutes in which nothing blows up and nobody double-flips a Ferrari.

    I thought MONSTERS was flawed in many ways – some clunky sermonising, too little sense of threat, an effects budget stretched a bit too thin – but I also thoroughly enjoyed it, and never once got the urge to reach for the fast-forward button. The leads were believable, the cinematography often gorgeous, and the creatures just fine for the most part. There were some nice little ‘gotcha’ reveals, and the score had a haunting simplicity. Throw in a couple of messy deaths, some excellent bit-part contributions from local talent, and a properly moving climax, and you’ve got yourself a fine film, regardless of budget. What do you want, people? WHAT DO YOU WANT?

  9. wonderingwhy

    Every movie romance is a bit quick and for no reason – this isn’t life as it’s lived, it’s a plot point.

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