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Ten Word or Less Review: A monster movie, but as if directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Don’t go in expecting a rough and tumble creature feature with blood and guts and idiot characters getting torn limb from limb by drooling beasts. “Monsters” is a no-budget, horror implied, drama about two semi-regular folk who find themselves in northern Mexico, now a walled off zone where towering, unidentifed creatures wreck havoc on life as the U.S. military attempts to destroy the infestation. Circumstances leave the two walking through the infested land, observing remaining locals trying to eek out a life, seeing the devistation that has reigned down on the land first hand.

This is a two person character vehicle and I doubt many will become enthralled with either of them. She’s a girl on extended get away from her rich family (Whitney Able), he’s a cynical photographer (Scoot McNairy) trying to capture the beasts on film. He gets roped into getting her back to U.S. soil safe and sound, a task he’s not greatly interested in accomplishing. That’s about all we get for character motivation and it works for what the film is trying to accomplish. The two unknowns here are playing everything down to earth and low key, there’s no real quirkiness or forced charactization to label either of them as a type. This picture is mostly a grim travelogue with two people, had they been superficial and forced it would’ve rendered the entire experience pointless and hard to watch.

While it shares the stage with recent creature features such as District 9 and Cloverfield, it contains none of those movies more bombastic elements. Monsters has more in common stylistically with a low-budget Steven Soderbergh movie than a Roland Emmerich destruction fest. There’s clearly a fraction of the money at the filmamkers disposal. The creatures which have cropped up are mostly kept at arms length, appearing in grainy videos, the haziness of night or simply as tenticles probing around. The bulk of the movie is made in a documentary fashion, following our two characters as they see how this third world nation has been devistated by not only the creatures, but the military response as well.

Like most decent science fiction Monsters has a few thoughts on its mind. Primarily it dwells on a societies tendency to root out and destroy what it sees as harmful, regardless of comprehending the situation completely. Director and writer Gareth Edwards message gets a little muddled though. While he’s preaching the noble dogma of observation and understanding before slaughter, the creatures he presents us with routinely seem extremely dangerous. He seems to be begrudging humanity it’s right to defend itself against something we clearly could never live with in any way shape or fashion.  The monsters are basically 40 ft. tall Octopus like beheamoths. Would you walk your dog knowing you might run into an octopus the size of a whale?   Hell no.  If Edwards intent was a little less illogical it would be a little easier to go with.

Monsters is an admirable effort, a bit more thoughtful than its chaos prone brethern. While it doesn’t wow or dazzle with spectacle it does involve and provoke a thought or two. It shows that we are more and more living in an age where compelling and technologically sophisticated movies can be made for meager amounts of money. At least meager by Hollywood’s standards.   A film like Monsters gives us hope that the Roland Emmerichs of the world might one day lose their strangelhold on epic tales of destruction and braver filmmakers will apply more than just globs of CGI to accomplish a means to an end.

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