What might you glean from watching recent American monster/sci fi films? You could decide that a lot of Americans have unpleasant memories of squid and octopus while on holiday. These poor creatures are definitely top of the threat to mankind tree.
Despite and because of so many familiar touches from so many other movies, “Monsters” is a sensual treat that won’t distress your dreams, but will linger in a way that is enjoyable and frankly silly.
A Central American zone – covering bits of beautifully-filmed Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico, has become infected by alien creatures. There is a quarantined zone, where 5,000 people have died and creatures still roam freely, disturbed only by American bombing raids. Locals carry gas masks and struggle to live a normal life. You know the drill. You’ve seen it before.
And yet, there is much that is original, lovingly framed and beautiful here. To start with, the hero and heroine are gorgeous. The improbably named Scoot McNairy (a young Humphrey Bogart) and Whitney Able (criminally pretty) cavort through lush countryside wearing delightfully few clothes and meeting with a variety of locals.
As a couple during the filming, there is no denying the actual chemistry of the pair. They glow with warmth for each other.
They miss the last boat out, to the safety of America. She is an heiress, struggling to get home. He is a photographer, worrying about why photos of dead children make him so much money. Both have a quirkiness in their acting and looks that makes you care about what happens to them.
There are iconic images in many scenes. The broken buildings and the firemen climbing through wreckage will take your mind back to the news footage from 9/11/2001. Tanks, planes and helicopters remind you of war footage from Iraq and Afghanistan.
You might also think that American film makers are struggling with what America actually is after war and attack on New York. Attempts to grasp this deeper meaning are probably doomed to failure, given that we are in the grip of the war on terror, making us feel more than a little unsettled about our own basic and inalienable freedoms. This film gives those ideas of alien, immigration and identity an airing.
Of course, all this may just be my brain searching for depth. I am a little annoyed by the mix of innocent and grasping stereotypes among the locals who cross the paths of the American heroes. Yet the affecting picture of a dead child – filmed in a red coat in homage to “Schindler’s List” – makes you look for deeper meanings in the plethora of images that remind you of other movies.
The wall America has built is so like many of the images of the Great Wall of China. This film punches way above its low budget weight.
You even get some rather unusual alien sex, if you like that sort of thing. Frankly, I don’t see enough of it to know whether I like it or not. I was a little startled.
It ends by leaving a door open for a sequel. I hope that happens. Gareth Edwards directs and writes with a sure hand and the time flies by. The use of light and darkness, nature, sunrise and vehicles adds to the atmosphere. It won’t scare you for long, but you will jump a little. The music enhances the action.
The Stratford Picture House audience loved it, although the women cared about it more than the men did. Thanks to the team for making me feel so very welcome.
And – thank you – to the reader who has identified all 3 song lyrics I sneak into each one of the 105 blog posts this year. Yes, I have blogged 105 times on movies in one year and I always get 3 song lyrics I love into the text. Frankly, honey, I am a little worried that you need to get out more. Even I can’t remember the lyrics snuck into the early pieces. But I will take your word for it. It is nice to think someone is reading these so closely and caring so much. And this blog is a year old. Happy Birthday!
What am I looking forward to, another reader asks. “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” and “Tron – Legacy” are top of the list. I shall raise a glass to the next year – and thank you for doing me the great favour of reading and commenting. It means a great deal to me.