December 21, 2010 -- “Monsters” is a micro-budget sci-fi movie that looks a 20 times more expensive than it cost to produce. That is actually its main claim to fame. The movie itself is pretty slow moving and the giant alien monsters are disappointing because they appear on the screen so briefly. The really impressive thing about it is how cheaply it was made. It was made for a production budget of $15,000, far less than the catering budget of most movies. It was made “Bowfinger” style, sort of guerilla filmmaking, no filming permits, only two people in the crew, off-the-shelf camera and special effects software and a real can-do attitude.
The movie takes place in the future when alien life forms appear on the earth. They are like giant, land-roving octopi, murderously devouring people and multiplying rapidly enough that they have for years defied efforts by military forces to wipe them out. Andrew Kaulder (played by Scoot McNairy), a news photographer, is ordered by his boss to get his boss's pretty daughter, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) back into the United States from Mexico. They have to cross an “infection zone” to get there. The danger there comes from huge alien monsters and military forces using toxic gas and heavy weapons against the giant monsters. They end up hiking through jungles and through mountains to get to the U.S., which has its own infection zone they have to get through. The movie is a bit reminiscent of “War of the Worlds” or “The Mist.”
Despite the film's low budget, it shows the viewer impressive sights of devastation, ruined buildings, boats and cars in trees, in one scene, a monster seems to be playing with a jet fighter plane in a river. Along the way, in cars, boats and trains, there is a sexual tension between Andrew and Samantha, despite the fact that Samantha is engaged to be married. The romantic aspect of the film doesn't quite work, but the romantic dynamic does help the story through its many slow passages. There is also a little action and some interesting scenery along the way, including ruins of a pre-Columbian civilization and a giant wall meant to keep the monsters out of the U.S., only it doesn't work (sound familiar?).
While the film rates a C, it is remarkable what writer-director Gareth Edwards has accomplished here with such a tiny budget. This might be the best micro-budget movie since “El Mariachi.” The acting by Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able is very good. They are the only two people listed in the cast, the others, even those with speaking roles, are all listed as extras. Reportedly, these people were not actors, but just people who happened to be at the locations where shooting took place and who agreed to participate in the film. Locations include Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize and the U.S. (including Galveston, Tex.).
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.