Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Beautiful Monsters

Call it the anti-Cloverfield.

Monsters was released in 2010, on a frayed shoe-string of a budget with two unknown actors (Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy) and an intriguing premise. Six years earlier a NASA probe returned from space with some sort of fungus sample. These fungoid life-forms grow to prodigious size and wreak so much havoc in Northern Mexico that the entire border is eventually sealed, half of the country turned over to the 'monsters.' Andrew Kaulder, a photojournalist, is ordered by his boss to escort Samantha Wynden (boss's daughter) from Mexico before the "migration season" starts. Andrew, a selfish, self-involved bohemian takes a fancy to Samantha during a bender on the night before they leave. This leads to some poor decision making and the eventual loss of his and the daughter's passport. The rest of the movie follows this pair as they travel north, hoping to cross over into America through the enormous wall built to keep the monsters out.



I don't want to give anyone reading this review the wrong impression. There are monsters in this movie and they're fairly important to the overall message but do not watch this with the expectation of seeing buildings knocked over and tentacled creatures blown up. It's not that kind of movie. This is a small independent travel/romance movie that just happens to include some monsters.

Any other movie and I would have to describe in tedious detail the gun-fire, explosions, and spectacular CGI forming the bulk of the story. Instead, I can simply talk about the story. Because ultimately, while this movie isn't exactly Days of Heaven or anything it does tell a good romantic tale between two well-drawn characters. Andrew is kind of a train-wreck, an estranged father and all around cynical human being using his camera as a way to cleave himself from his own life. Samantha is also on the run, taking a tour through Central America to postpone her impending marriage. 

At one point, a guide takes the characters into the jungles of Northern Mexico (geography not one of this movie's strong suits) to see the 'extraterrestrials' living in the trees. What they find are phosphorescent mushrooms ringing the trees, living in a silent communion with the life already there. It's a strangely beautiful moment,  alien light shining on both characters, while menacing whale moans fill the jungle behind them. You get the sense of this being a kind of metaphor for love itself: intrusive, unexpected, but also part of the natural order. 


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