Monsters - Blu-ray Review

'The prevalent criticism of the film is that, for a movie called Monsters, there are precious few of them on show. If you honestly believe that then you're not looking hard enough.'

Made on a shoestring budget with a minuscule cast and crew, half a script and varying levels of non-permission to film on location, Monsters is both a fantastic logistical accomplishment and a fantastic film. Primarily the work of one man - Gareth Edwards who serves as director, writer, cinematographer, production designer and visual effects creator - the film works as a romantic drama, as road movie, as a political allegory, as social comment and as a recognisable science-fiction dystopia. It is, almost without reservation, a tremendous success and undoubtedly one of the films of last year.

Much of Monsters success hinges on Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy, the only two professional actors in the entire film. As Sam and Kaulder, Able and McNairy inhabit a 'will they/won't they' love arc which is delightful both in its unpredictability and in its occasional warmth. The characters too differ from the standard archetypes usually found in this sort of material. Kaulder is a cock. Far from the barrel-chested hero, he must take blame for many of the bad situations in Monsters with both his decision-making and people skills leaving a lot to be desired. Initially set up as the 'poor little rich girl', Sam speaks Spanish (the film is set almost exclusively in Mexico) where Kaulder does not and Edwards treads the very difficult line between condescension and character development as she emerges as a properly developed, well-rounded individual, rather than the damsel in distress which she appears to be presented as.

Thematically, Monsters attempts much and achieves more. By the end, questions are raised about the ability for fictional characters to leave the narrative imposed on them and for real people to emerge from intense situations unaffected. In the middle, time is spent suggesting a critique of American foreign policy which initially seems obvious but is developed in to a much fuller consideration. During the first third, the notions of home and survival are explored. At just ninety-four minutes the film is a broad canvas of fully expressed notions and doctrines which complement each other superbly and which never threaten to drown the central 'road trip' story.

The prevalent criticism of that story is that for a film called Monsters, there are precious few of them on show. If you honestly believe that then you're not looking hard enough. There is a different film in here somewhere; a film which has more guns and violence and death, more battles and monsters posing for cameras and attack ships and bombing and marines and generals. That film would be atrocious when compared to this one and if you really want to see that film then there are plenty of options available. Alternatively, Edwards has made something which dismantles the alien disaster movie and puts it back together again as something closer to the moralistic Science-Fiction films of yesteryear. Monsters is unique, engaging, viscerally intelligent and, ultimately, a great deal of fun. One of the most significant debuts of the last few years.

Look further...

'a surprise and a delight to watch after having seen other much poorer executed Alien films over the last few years' - Review Avenue, 7.5/10


  1. I didn't like this quite as much as you, but I did quite enjoy it. Lots of creativity and advantageous shooting really helped keep it intriguing, but I couldn't help feel the two main star characters were just plain and out of place against the backdrop of the tale.

  2. I think they do tread a thin line. Because of the lack of support they're perhaps not quite as developed as they should be and Kaulder comes very close to being entirely unlikeable in my opinion. For all that though I did believe the arc of their relationship and that was enough for me with everything that was happening in the background.

  3. I liked this film and it's stuck in my mind for a while now. I'm going to have to buy a copy - the ultimate compliment.

    I agree that there's loads of options for alien action. This film is unique, at least in what I've seen. Like In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Scoot McNairy seems to appear in romantic stories I actually like.

  4. Definitely with you on that. I'll be grabbing the Blu-ray at the next opportunity.