I know a while back I said I'd be reviewing films of possible interest to cosmic horror fans, and so far I've only done one. Life has been iffy so I've been unfortunately distracted.
But special effects man turned director Gareth Edwards lovely little Indie film Monsters hit the shelves this week so it was an opportune time to do something (especially since the darn ice storms are keeping me trapped inside).
The story begins 6 years after scientists send a probe to Jupiter because they think they've discovered life on Europa. The probe breaks up on re-entry, scattering much of Mexico with alien spores (or something). It eventually becomes known as the Infected Zone because the trees are covered in alien eggs (which look suspiciously like bracket fungi). Once the eggs hatch the aliens head out to sea via rivers, only returning to land to procreate or for reasons known only to them. The problem with this is that as adults they are 100 meter monstrosities, and due to chemical warfare by the U.S. military they tend to react viciously to humans. The result is a massive stone wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that possibly dwarfs even the Wall of China.
This could be the perfect setting for a sort of cosmic horror story, but the director instead opts for a combination of a road film, romantic drama, and post apocalyptic commentary on humanity. Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is a professional photographer employed by an unnamed American company to keep a record of the fighting between the Mexican military and the creatures, and to hopefully get some live action shots of them. Unfortunately for him he always manages to get there in the aftermath, and then even worse Samantha (Whitney Able, playing the daughter of the company owner) needs an escort to get back home to California after getting stuck behind the border. The only ferry costs a steep price, and the night before they are to leave Andrew gets drunk and picks up a woman who robs them of their money and passports. So now if they wish to get back to America, they have to cross the Infected Zone, which means dodging joint bombing raids/chemical dumps by the USAF and Mexican forces, and the aliens themselves.
According to IMDB and other sources the director had a budget of only $800,000 dollars, and two principal actors. Everyone else was just someone who happened to be there when they were filming, and all locations (except the obvious photoshopped stuff) were actual locations sometimes used without asking prior permission, and the crew was limited to only a handful of people using off the shelf equipment. If this is true what Edwards has done is fairly spectacular considering the film looks much more expensive to make, and the creature effects are pretty darn good. Alas it had a very limited release in the states, and will hopefully make it's money back in DVD sales. It's inspiring to see a film made on a shoestring come out so well in an age of 100+ million dollar crap that has an enormous budget yet still can't make a decent monster or tell a story. It gives me hope for the Legendary Pictures Godzilla remake since Edwards has been tapped to direct it.
A note for horror fans: this is not strictly a horror film although it has moments. It's more about two average people thrown together in an extraordinary situation, and developing feelings for one another (it doesn't hurt that the main actors are supposed to be a real life couple). It's not an action film, and the story moves at a slow, dreamlike pace. So if you want a traditional horror or action film look elsewhere. But if you want something different it's worth checking out. This should have gotten a much larger release, and it's kind of sad it's been pushed into a corner.