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Film / Monsters (2010)

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Monsters is a British sci-fi thriller directed by Gareth Edwards released in 2010.

Six years previously NASA believed they had finally discovered alien life in our solar system and went about trying to gain themselves a sample. Unfortunately the probe they sent crashed upon re-entry over an unsuspecting Central America. It wasn't long before new (and terrifying) lifeforms emerged and spread at such an alarming rate that half of Mexico found itself quarantined. Now as the Mexican and American military struggle to prevent the creatures from expanding outside of the "Infected Zone" our story begins.

Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), an American photojournalist, is tasked with helping his rich employer's daughter, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), get back home to the states. As you'd expect the simple train ride home is prevented by damage to the tracks and soon the pair find themselves on a dangerous journey through the infected zone to reach the US border.

Notable for its miniscule budget (under $500,000) but high quality special effects. Director Gareth Edwards' experience working with visual effects (which he personally did for the movie) proved to be an incredible asset. All of the extras were just people that happened to be around while filming and a lot of the scenes were shot on location without worrying about the trivial need for permission to film.

A sequel, Monsters: Dark Continent was released in 2014. There is a monster infestation in the Middle East, and American anti-monster operations are causing a lot of collateral damage. The film follows a squad of American troops, who find angry locals to be at least as dangerous as the monsters.

This film provides examples of:

  • Alien Invasion: An accidental incursion by beings that, aside from being incredibly deadly to humans, behave like normal animals.
  • Apocalypse How: A Class 0, with northern Mexico and the border region infested by giant-sized extraterrestrial fauna that leave a lot of Urban Ruins.
  • Artistic License – Geography: So apparently there are thick rainforests and Mayan ziggurats just south of the Rio Grande, since the main characters stand atop a ziggurat while looking at the American border wall.
  • Bloody Handprint: Seen on a wrecked yacht as the protagonists journey down the river in the Infected Zone.
  • Berserk Button: Fighter jets flying overhead send the giant aliens into a killing rampage, presumably because they've come to associate the sound with Death from Above.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: The monsters that appear at the climax are flying jellyfish and the protagonists are mesmerized by their glow.
  • Bystander Action-Horror Dissonance: Exaggerated. Most of the unusual stuff seen by the protagonists is the aftermath of many offscreen attempts at getting rid of the aliens and the aliens' rampaging. Except for the prologue and the epilogue (which stops a few second short of a full How We Got Here) no aliens even appear in full on-screen.
  • Checkpoint Charlie: Subverted. When the protagonists arrive at the huge wall at the US border they find it abandoned, as the aliens have overrun it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Samantha sees a TV documentary on how jellyfish attract mates with a light display. Later on she realises the giant alien is attracted to the light of a television set and turns it off.
  • Combat Tentacles: The only visible part of the monster encountered while traversing the river is these, which it uses to pull the wreckage of a fighter jet underwater.
  • Crazy Homeless People: The only person left in the Texas Evacuated Zone is a mentally-ill bag lady who apparently didn't evacuate with the sane folks.
  • The Dead Have Names: Just before going into the Infected Zone, the pair visit a memorial filled with candles and pictures of those who had died. Also present is a memorial of nothing but scattered bones (skulls most prominently) marked as "Unknown Dead".
  • Deadly Road Trip: A journalist is tasked with bringing back his employer's daughter from Mexico. After it has been overrun by monsters.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: An unwanted bunch of aliens from Mexico are constantly attempting to cross the US border and actually succeeding despite a giant fortified wall being put in place to stop them. You've got the American immigration controversy.
  • Foreshadowing: Andrew's earlier rant about seeing monsters up close winds up basically coming true. He doesn't take the picture though.
  • The Great Wall: The film has a huge wall being built at the Mexican border to prevent giant aliens from entering the US, though it's proving not to be very successful. Those living in the Infected Zone joke that the giant wall erected around them by the US government will eventually be built around the world.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with a convoy of soldiers retrieving a young couple, then getting attacked by a giant alien which kills or wounds the woman. The rest of the movie depicts how the couple got to that point, but ends before actually reaching it.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Surprisingly averted. It seems the military may rain down the occasional heavy-handed airstrike to take down an alien but aren't seen doing their usual "It's the Only Way to Be Sure" approach, namely making a crater the size of Mexico. People just seem to be trying to survive or adapt to the situation rather than kill each other over it.
    • From the beginning of the movie, referring the alien infested zone as "infected", and gasmask being distributed to civilians gives an implication that the aliens are toxic/infecting humans and turning them into more aliens. During the jungle trek, it's revealed that the true reason is that the Americans are using chemical weapons against the aliens. Which puts the Mexicans protesting for the Americans to stop bombing the aliens into perspetive.
  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: Discussed fairly heavily by Andrew after Samantha asks him whether he's bothered by the fact that he profits from tragedy.
    Andrew: Do you know how much your father's company pays for a picture of a child killed by a creature? $50,000. Do you know how much money I get paid for a picture of a happy child? Nothing. Do you know where that puts me? Photographing tragedy.
  • Improv: The film was shot opportunistically, with little to no outline of scenes and their direction. The two actors were given a general outline of scenes and simply interacted with one another and the other cast members, all whom are not actors. All the scenes and shots were improvised as well.
  • Kaiju: The big, tentacly blue whale-sized aliens that stomp around on huge spider legs, fight the military (despite not actually being antagonistic) and smash things tick enough boxes to qualify.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Lampshaded by Andrew after he fills Samantha in on how his son's mother (they'd only spent 2 months together) had screwed him over regarding visitation.
    Andrew: So on a lighter note, you got any pets?
  • Motor Mouth: Andrew whenever he's supposed to be quiet. The moment something mysterious happens, he's loudly asking "WHAT IS THAT? WHAT'S HAPPENING?". Probably largely due to the ad-libbed nature of the movie.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: It's heavily implied if not downright stated that the aliens aren't the aggressive monsters that they are perceived as. Sure they look scary, especially given they're nocturnal and their appearance. They do hurt and even kill people but this is probably curiosity, self defense and just their sheer size. During the finale, two of the creatures meet up in an awe-inspiring light show and completely ignore the humans nearby. This is made explicitly clear in Monsters: Dark Continent, as none of the onscreen deaths are caused by the creatures, and it's obvious that the locals could adapt just fine their presence.
  • Obscured Special Effects: Most of the time the aliens are shown at least one of several things occurs: we see small portions of them, they are shown through blurry amateur video or night vision, or they are seen when it is very dark. This was done to conserve the very low budget for the few shots where we do see the whole creature unobscured. Plus, anything more elaborate would have been a nightmare for director Gareth Edwards, who did all the special effects by himself with off-the-shelf software.
  • One-Word Title: The title is Monsters, if you didn't notice.
  • Road Movie: The only difference between an average "two people traveling through a rough part of Mexico" movie and this one are the aliens.
  • Runaway Bride: A passive version with Samantha clearly reluctant to return to her fiance and get married, but unwilling to take action to call the whole thing off.
  • Run for the Border: The protagonists are stranded in Mexico, which is overrun by gigantic aliens. They are trying to sneak across the American border without getting arrested or eaten.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Considering it's taking strange huge creatures, unnaturally introducing them to a foreign environment and then failing to contain them, it makes sense Jurassic Park was cited as the main influence.
    • One of the soldiers on patrol in the opening scene hums "Ride of the Valkyries," calling it his personal theme song, in a clear homage to Apocalypse Now.
  • Starfish Aliens: The aliens are giant squid-crab things with bioluminescence that grow from mushroom-like polyps.
  • Terraform: Specifically xenoforming might be occurring, although it's uncertain if it's truly going to pose a danger to the terrestrial ecology. Trees in the "Infected Zone" are hosting alien spores.
  • The Unreveal: It’s never revealed whether the protagonists survive the giant alien attack and subsequent airstrike.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never learn what originally happened to Sam's arm.

Alternative Title(s): Monsters