Monsters [Blu-Ray] Gareth Edwards

Monsters [Blu-Ray] Gareth Edwards
When experimenting with formula, success can sometimes work against the end result. Monsters is an interesting, if not always fully engaging, experiment with how audiences expect to experience a monster movie. Gareth Edwards (an accomplished visual effects artist with experience in television directing) had a simple pitch: make an improvised monster movie with almost no cast or crew and a miniscule budget. There was a 12-page treatment outlining the basic journey and key plot points, but all of the dialogue was made up on the spot, locations were scouted as they went along and most of the extras cast minutes before shooting for ten bucks to sign a release form. Edwards shot everything and created all of the CGI afterwards on his laptop, utilizing no tracking dots or green screen on location. The result is a curious beast. It's a purposefully uneventful sci-fi travel film masquerading as a big-budget monster movie. Environment is key to Monsters' exposition. Spelled out at the beginning, in case the carefully altered signs and news footage are too vague, six years ago, a NASA probe returning with a sample of alien life from Europa crashed in Central America. Shortly after, new life forms began emerging in northern Mexico. An Infected Zone quarantine is set up and a huge wall built between the U.S. and Mexico. The story Edwards tells in this setting is that of an American journalist forced to escort his boss's daughter from Mexico back home before the borders are locked down. Scott McNairy and Whitney Able play Andrew Caulder and Samantha Wynden, the only official cast members. That they come across most awkward when they're not supposed to know each other, which makes sense after the special features reveal they're a real life couple, hired intentionally as such. Most of Monsters highlights the inherent frustrations and dangers of international travel as much as the fear of the unknown the subtext plays with to show the media's ability to shape perceptions of reality. If you're interested in how real people would try to avoid the dangers of a typical monster flick, Monsters is for you. It's a little boring, but almost always beautiful, with a viewpoint and climax that stand against everything we've come to expect from the genre. The features are engrossing. Young genre directors generally have a grasp on what makes for good features, which is lost on most studio products. Behind the scenes material covers every aspect of the project's evolution, providing extensive history on its creators. Edwards is exceptionally candid and humble about his process and skill, listing his equipment and software, demonstrating its use and questioning why studios still drop the cash they do on effects work. It's hard to argue when you see what he can accomplish with such limited resources. Deleted scenes aren't essential, but interviews with Edwards, Scott and Whitney are almost more entertaining than the film, as is their three-way feature commentary. Monsters is a worthwhile experiment and a promising first film, just don't expect to have your socks rocked so much as your heart tickled. (Maple)