Review: ‘Monsters’

While the plot appears to meander, the impact is undeniable.

Deep in southern Mexico, an American photojournalist named Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is hired to escort his boss’s daughter, Samantha (Whitney Able), back to the United States. Their obstacle is the “infected zone,” a fenced-off area around what was once most of Mexico before a NASA satellite carrying alien life samples crashed there. With previously unknown vegetation reclaiming the domesticated landscape and a early migration of alien creatures moving north, options for getting to the US are down to one: pay an exorbitant fee to some local mercenaries to sneak them through the infected zone to the US border… and hope they don’t run into anything on the way.

Monsters plays out like a road trip film with a dash of romantic interest and budget-conscious Jurassic Park. Shot half documentary style and part steady-cam, the film also manages to feel real without making you sick with shoddy film work. The possibilities for this concept might be endless if money were no object, but as an underfunded Indie project, the story turns introspective more often than spectacle and takes very real turns, so even when events are uninteresting, they’re still believable.

Signage plays a huge part in the film’s setting. For much of the film, signs indicating what is out there and what they can do are everywhere, strewn along with the debris and telltale wreckage that something bigger and more powerful than conventional weapons isn’t too far away. An impressive image of the wall protecting the US border late in the film shows that the military means business. It also calls attention to the fact the wall is keeping out illegal alien immigrants that no one previously had dared to imagine.

While the road trip feel of the film is the vehicle, bonding and survival are the order of the day for both human and alien alike. The ending intentionally blurs ideas like good vs. evil and what’s right or wrong. Unfortunately for humankind, survival and the right to exist is more important than procreation, and as often happens when a new dominate species is introduced to a lesser one, what is implied about the world and the infected zone doesn’t bode well for the indigenous population. In the end, Monsters tells an intimate story in a huge way while asking the question: “Who’s the monster?”

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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