Keeva Stratton,Â Quip Creative
Written and Directed by Gareth Edwards
Starring: Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
Monsters is a nondescript title that immediately conjured up for me images from the Pixar animated kids\’ film, while simultaneously raising concerns about a B-grade, cheesy creature feature â€“ but this lovely film gracefully and easily sidesteps being neither a big production, soulless monster movie (filled with explosions and cardboard-thin characters), nor a tacky gory exploitation flick (punctuated with over-the-top deaths, blood, guts, etc.). Monsters is the first feature film written and directed by Gareth Edwards, who has made his name as a BAFTA award winning and Emmy nominated visual effects creator for the BBC and The Discovery Channel. The film, however, is not geared around visual effects (though these are well done), but rather rests on fine, largely improvised performances by the two main actors, and beautifully handled dramatic tension and atmosphere.
“I wanted Monsters to be set after most monster movies normally end”, Edwards explains, “so, six years later, when life just goes on and there are these creatures affecting in a certain part of the world. It\’s a seasonal problem to do with the migration path that these things go on which happens earlier than normal this particular year. For photographer Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) it is the chance he\’s been waiting for to get those big money monster shots. But when his boss\’s daughter Sam (Whitney Able), is also caught up in it her daughter demands that Kaulder helps to bring her home. What starts out as a straightforward task gets worse and essentially we end up on a road movie where we go right through the heart of the Infected Zone as they try to get back to America.”
The film was shot with just a four person crew and a fixer â€“ the team traveled through Guatemala, Belize and Mexico picking locations and shooting scenes, with the two lead actors having been given certain guidelines on what would happen in a scene and what character developments should be between particular stages of the story. Monsters depends a great deal on the chemistry and weight of the performances by the two lead actors, and Scooter McNairy and Whitney Able both deliver â€“ Kaulder (McNairy) is invested with a quirky, idiosyncratic charm and emotional depth, and Sam (Able) is given a raw, nuanced reading, with her luminous beauty and presence only accentuated by the dirt and grime. The believability of the evolving relationship between Kaulder and Sam is heightened by being played by a real life couple (Scoot McNairy proposed to Whitney Able a few months after the shooting).
The key to this film, as its director Gareth Edwards says, is that “it\’s more about the journey these two people go on both literally and emotionally.” In essence, Monsters is a creative, enthralling film, made with craft and passion, which overcomes its low production budget, that steps boldly and intriguingly across a number of genre boundaries, and that definitely provides much more in terms of a gripping viewing experience than its nondescript title would imply. Edwards quips, “I\’d say it\’s the first love story a bloke would want to go and see and the first monster movie I\’m confident a girl would love; one that hits the radar for both.”
Monsters is easily recommended; the film opens here in limited release from November 25.
Category: Film & TV