2:2 (3/5)

Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Whitney Able & Scoot McNairy

By Andrew Naylor

There have been a number of films which have been released over the years to huge critical acclaim that have left me scratching my head as to what exactly constitutes quality filmmaking nowadays. Monsters (directed by Gareth Edwards) follows in the footsteps of ‘classics’ such as Cast Away and Open Water, a genre unto themselves, in my opinion. Typically these films revolve around some duo who are left to fend for themselves in a dangerous situation, but who more often than not escape without a scratch, despite all odds. When I say duo I mean it in the broadest sense of the word. I’m sure we all recall ‘Wilson,’ the bloody volleyball that becomes Tom Hanks’s sole confidant while marooned on an island in the middle of nowhere in Cast Away.

Monsters revolves around an ‘infected zone’ on the U.S. – Mexico border which has become populated by extraterrestrial creatures. Scoot McNairy plays Andrew Kaulder, a photojournalist for an influential magazine charged with the task of returning his employer’s daughter, Samantha (Whitney Able), to the U.S. Due to Kaulder’s loss of Samantha’s passport as a result of a drunken one night stand, the couple are forced to take their lives in their own hands and take the trek through the ‘infected zone’ in order to reach the wall erected along the U.S. – Mexico border.

Overall their journey goes by without a hitch while their native guides aren’t quite so lucky. The creatures themselves are rather disappointing whenever they decide to make an appearance, which amounts to about three or four times in the space of an hour and a half. Edwards has admitted the creature shots were the ‘hardest part of the whole process,’ owing to time restrictions. Knowing this one does get the feeling that Edwards has deliberately tried to suppress any major encounters with the giant octopus-like creatures, which mostly appear under the cover of darkness, a background which camouflages their unconvincing appearance.

As a substitute we are fed repetitive dialogue centred around such topics as what each of the two are going to do tomorrow when they get home. Discussions on pets also feature. Zzzzzz…. I guess when you’re so busy not getting attacked you veer towards the mundane.

Despite any complaints that can be expressed against the aforementioned genre of films into which Monsters can be slotted, it can’t be denied that one always ends up watching them to the very end, perhaps waiting for some climax of epic proportions which will redeem the film of its coma-inducing content up to that point. In this case such a redemption does not take place and the concluding scene is truly bizarre. As the credits appear I’m left wondering what exactly justifies the nomination of this somewhat barren sci-fi thriller for six British Independent Film Awards. Let me sleep on it!

Monsters trailer.