Review by Michael Montenegro
I recently watched MONSTERS as an early release on my FiOS Video on Demand; it's USA theatrical release is scheduled for October 29th. I went in to watching this movie with moderately high expectations since they are marketing this movie as "2010's DISTRICT 9".
However, let me be the one to burst that bubble! In order for that comparison to be accurate DISTRICT 9 would need to remove 95% of their alien scenes, have the lowest common denominator plot devices and turn out to be a love story masquerading as a "monster" movie.
MONSTERS' premise is that 6 years ago NASA found the possibility of intelligent alien life in our solar system. They launched a probe and instead of landing safely it crashed in the middle of Mexico and the region was quickly inhabited and over run with "strange creatures." The area was walled off and became the Infected Zone, with sections of Mexico (and presumably America) bordering the Infected Zone constantly under attack from said creatures.
Now that sounds like a great idea for a movie about giant monsters! Sadly this is NOT a movie about giant monsters, it's a love story?! That's right, I watched and waited patiently for my big pay-off alien showdown and all I got was two of the most flat and uninteresting characters trekking across Mexico together and falling in love at the end. The offending characters are Andrew Kaulder, a photographer for a major US publication and Samantha Wynden, the "runaway bride" daughter of the publisher of said publication.
Samantha is caught in and slightly injured in an altercation between military forces and a wandering creature near her hotel in Mexico, where she is hiding out from her father and fiancee. Apparently her emotions around getting married are so confusing she runs to creature-infested Mexico presumably on daddy's dime to think things over. Really?! Not some tranquil far away European nation or some private island that fits your characters' background? Nope she picks the most ghetto areas of Mexico where alien encounters and devastation run rampant.
Enter our photographer Andrew, who is tasked by daddy dearest to find and bring his daughter back safely to the US. He's hesitant at first since leaving the area to escort "Ms. Whiny rich girl with problems" home will likely derail his opportunity to get some real shots of these creatures, which is his job and the whole reason he's stationed down there in the first place. But after a somewhat "stern talking to" over the pay phone from daddy he agrees to get her to the harbor and on the last ships to the states.
Arriving at the harbor they find there's only one company selling tickets for the last ship out and of course the price of admission is a steep one. They negotiate a little and get two tickets on the ferry leaving at 7am the following day. So what better to spend the night before your last shot of leaving the area for 6 months then shack up in a shady flee-bag motel and go out drinking like it's Cinco De Mayo!
We all know drinking leads to feelings and a "connection" but it doesn't lead to anything physical with unattached to Whiny rich girl so Andrew, being a guy, finds a local lady to end his night. The next morning Samantha, upon discovering Andrew's passed out bed mate, runs away upset and Andrew gives chase in his boxers to "apologize?"
If you're confused by this don't worry, it's natural. So of course after working this apparent "tiff" out Andrew returns to find... the tickets and their passports have been seemingly stolen by his now absent lady of the night. Oh no!! Who could have foreseen such a plot twist?! Oh right anyone who has half a brain and knows the movie isn't even halfway over and they haven't entered the Infected Zone yet!
They try to reason with the uncaring ticket guy who simply explains the price has now doubled! How could they possibly afford double... if only one of them had a super rich and connected father... but that only happens in the movies! So the the only option left is to go through the Infected Zone with "Mercs-for hire" and to cover the cost our heroine hands over her diamond engagement ring. Gasp!
Well at least now I'll get to see the creatures attack people and run amok right?! Wrong! Our intrepid duo navigate the Infected Zone with their "guides" coming to rest for the night and hearing stories told around campfire of why the area is refereed to as Infected. Turns out the creatures mate and the female lays her eggs in the form of glowing toadstool growths on tree trunks all over the jungle.
The group's night is interrupted by a radio squawk of an obvious attack in the area. As they try to escape the danger the first truck out of the two is picked up by some dark tentacles and dropped. Gunfire and screaming ensues and through a broken and flipped over truck window we see our first real, all be it quick, glimpse of the creatures. Back lit only by the moon we see basically a big Octopus on what appears to be stilt like legs, yep... that's all these new breed of Monster movie makers can imagine for us.
So now alone Andrew and Samantha push on toward the "promised land" of America. They reach a very old temple and climb to the summit and look out across the jungle and see a massive wall signaling the border of Mexico and America. The scene, which could have had a really interesting effect, is ruined by the next few pieces of dialogue in which, with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the head, drives home the point that America is something we take for granted while inside and how it's so different looking at her from the outside in.
Wow! So on top of a love story it's also addressing the issue of illegal immigration! What can't this movie do... oh right, show me Giant Monsters being Giant Monsters!
Thankfully we're reaching the end of this dribble. So as our couple reach the seemingly deserted and abandoned border wall, seeing only emptiness and hurricane like destruction, it appears all is not safe in America. They wander into the night finally finding a run down yet still functioning gas station equipped with lights and a working phone and pay phone. They quickly call the 911 and are told to stay put and a military unit is in the area and en-route to pick them up.
Now this has promise, our heroes are alone in the dark, the military is on the way and all signs point to a nice decent action sequence to close out the movie. Again Wrong!
What we see on the final moments of MONSTERS is not one but two creatures, again back lit by sporadic lightning flashes, who stumble upon the gas station and come together and mate. They apparently lock tentacles and glow with bio-luminescence then walk away making almost whale like calls. As they walk away the military unit of twin Humvees show up and take our couple away separately. That's right, the final image we as an audience of MONSTERS see is our couple looking longingly at each other, knowing they can never be, that their just from two different worlds. Fade to black. The End. WHAT!?!
The level of anger and sheer disappointment I felt at a movie that was billed as a return to the Giant Monster movie was epic! What we have here is a movie about two people from different worlds coming together and eventually falling in love with each other with the backdrop of creatures roaming around the jungles mating. The perfect words I can find to describe this movie are "Wasted Potential". However if the idea the entire time was to make MONSTERS a love story then why call it MONSTERS?
I can't in good faith recommend this movie for any fan of legit monster movies. The ratio of monster to human drama is completely off balance. If you're looking for a love story that has an indie feel with very little monster parts this is the movie for you. But if you're a fan of old school GODZILLA or BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS movies stay away, unless you like to be teased and taunted with no payoff.
Michael Montenegro is an avid Horror/Sci-fi movie fan. He is also a hardcore comic reader and artist having graduated from The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. He currently resides with his fiancee, two cats and a ferret in NJ.