Monsters is a 2010 British science fiction monster film written and directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) in his feature film directorial debut. Edwards also served as the cinematographer, production designer, and visual effects artist.
Monsters takes place years after a NASA probe crash in Mexico which led to the sudden appearance of giant tentacled monsters. It follows Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), an American photojournalist tasked with escorting his employer’s daughter Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) back to the US by crossing through Mexico’s “Infected Zone” where the creatures reside.
Edwards conceived the idea for the film after seeing fishermen attempt to bring a creature in with a net, and imagining a monster inside. He pitched the idea to Vertigo Films who agreed to finance it.
The film was shot in Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and the United States over three weeks., and many locations were used without permission. Most of the extras were people who were at these locations during filming and were persuaded to act in it; all of their dialogue was improvised, and Edwards provided outlines of the primary plot points.
Every night after shooting, editor Colin Goudie and his assistant Justin Hall would download the footage so the memory sticks could be cleared and ready for the next day. While new footage was being captured, the previously filmed footage was edited at the production team’s hotel. After filming concluded, the crew had over 100 hours of footage. The original cut was over four hours long but was trimmed to 94 minutes after eight months of editing.
Edwards created the visual effects himself using off-the-shelf Adobe software, ZBrush, and Autodesk 3ds Max. He had five months to create all 250 visual effects shots, a process he undertook in his bedroom. He produced two shots a day until he reached the first creature shot, when “suddenly two months went by and [he] still hadn’t finished a single creature shot”; Edwards stated that the creatures’ visual effects were the most challenging element of production.
Monsters premiered at South by Southwest on 13 March 2010. Hours later, Magnet Releasing acquired the rights to distribute it in North America. It had a limited release there, beginning on 29 October 2010, followed by a theatrical release in the United Kingdom on 3 December 2010.
The film received generally positive reviews and was a box office success, grossing $4.2 million against a budget of less than $500,000. Monsters: Dark Continent, a sequel, was released on 1 May 2015.
Reviews [click links to read more]:
“Both the satire and the human story are more involving than in District 9, and McNairy, in particular, gives an excellent and very convincing performance. This is a very postmodern sci-fi, with its downbeat approach to the monsters themselves, but with a hugely involving love story.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Monsters is really a road-movie romance that tracks the burgeoning relationship between two strangers as they travel through the ”infected” zone. The result impresses thanks to the lead actors’ performances and Edwards’ skilled efforts. But it should come with a warning: ”Here be (not many) monsters.” Clark Collis, Entertainment Weekly
” … despite the well-covered terrain, Edwards adds original touches to the genre, especially where production design is concerned. His use of weather-worn “infected zone” signs and other fading notices go far in setting up an established way of life while he admirably refrains from orchestrating those inevitable creature sightings for maximum (brass blaring) shock value.” Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
“Monsters holds our attention ever more deeply as we realize it’s not a casual exploitation picture. We expect that sooner or later, we’ll get a good look at the aliens close up. When we do, let’s say it’s not a disappointment. They’re ugly and uncannily beautiful. We’ve never seen anything like them. And their motives are made clear in a sequence combining uncommon suspense and uncanny poetry.” RogerEbert.com
“Monsters’ wants to be an allegory about American self-absorption or the panic over immigration or something; exactly what is never very clear. If the real monsters are supposed to be us — a metaphor the film’s majestic climactic image makes explicit — on the evidence here, we just aren’t scary enough.” Ty Burr, Boston Globe