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Rating: R

Whitney Able as Samantha Wynden
Scoot McNairy as Andrew Kaulder

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Special Features:
Directed by Gareth Edwards, Whitney Able, and Scoot McNairy

Deleted and Extended Scenes

HDNet: A Look at Monsters

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Sound
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 94 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“Six years ago NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A probe was launched to collect samples, but crashed upon re-entry over Central America. Soon after, new life forms began to appear there and half of Mexico was quarantined as an Infected Zone. Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain “the creatures”…Our story begins when a U.S. journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through the infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the U.S. border.”

“Monsters” is rated R for language.

I can think of several good reasons why you should check out “Monsters.” First of all, if you’re any kind of a fan of giant monster movies, then this is one you’ll want to check out. It features the unique premise of a world trying to contain an outbreak of giant monsters from outer space. Like “Cloverfield” or “District 9,” it’s reality based in its approach. The monsters aren’t treated like some villain or menace with a purpose. They’re portrayed as real animals with all the beauty and terror of, say, a great white shark. It’s a unique take on the genre and fun to watch.

Another reason “Monsters” is worth checking out is because this movie won Gareth Edwards the job as the director of the new “Godzilla” movie. If you want a taste of what he’s capable of, you need to see this. “Monsters” has great use of the special effects, great scenes with the monsters, and an eye towards building the human characters. It’s going to be really interesting to see what Edwards does with a bigger budget and a classic movie monster.

“Monsters” is also worth checking out if you’re a film student or a fan of indie cinema. Edwards shot this movie in Mexico and other locations with a minimal crew, two actors, and only a general idea of where he’d place special effects later. He made use of locals as extras, random locations they came across as sets, and improvised dialogue. It’s a true guerilla film and, considering the resources at Edwards’ disposal, is an impressive accomplishment. No wonder the “Godzilla” folks wanted him to direct their film – he can deliver a lot on a minimal budget.

All that being said, the movie does have some drawbacks. Most of the story follows Whitney Able as Samantha Wynden and Scoot McNairy as Andrew Kaulder and their road trip trying to get back to the US through the Infected Zone. It’s interesting seeing them travel through the area and interacting with the locals, but let’s face it – you’re watching this movie to see giant monsters. And unfortunately there are really only three or four scenes involving the giant monsters. And only two of them have any significant monster action. You can probably chalk the lack of monsters up to budget reasons, but it does slow the pacing of the movie down.

And despite the fact that this a movie about giant monsters, I did have a problem with the realism in a couple of scenes. First of all, Andrew fights with a boat captain over the price of a ticket. He wants $5000, but they fight about it over and over and ultimately opt to make the journey on foot. However, Samantha’s father is a huge publishing magnate. Why on Earth would they fight over the price of a boat ticket? My other problem with this is the fact that they depict the border between the US and Mexico as a lush rainforest that contains ancient pyramids. Anybody that took elementary school geography knows it is desert and scrub brush. Is it a big deal? No, but it ripped me out of the story narrative as I laughed at it.

Nitpicks aside, “Monsters” is worth checking out if you’re any kind of fan of sci-fi. It’s a great example of taking a familiar genre and delivering a new spin on it.

The bonus features on the DVD are minimal. You only get some deleted scenes and a HDNet special on the making of the movie. The deleted scenes simply show more of Samantha and Andrew’s interaction with the locals. It’s not very special. The ‘making of’ video shows a lot of how they shot the movie, so that’s interesting to see. If you want more, you’ll have to try the Blu-ray.