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title stars


Representing twenty dollars and 94 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, Monsters is easily the most disappointing flick we’ve sat through in living memory. These are the consequences of impulse shopping in the video section at WalMart.

The premise of Monsters is intriguing – a recent NASA space probe has brought back something creepy and unexpected, and when it crashed in Mexico, whatever was lurking therein escaped and started to breed. Two people – a wealthy twenty-something blond woman with issues and her conflicted, economically-challenged male companion with an immaculately-coiffed three-day growth of facial hair – find themselves on the far side of the “infected zone” along the US-Mexican border and must survive the journey through a hostile and generally expensive landscape to reach safely… without being lunched out upon by huge, floating, ill-tempered CGI octopi.

The eponymous monsters of the film are actually pretty scarce – they appear in the distance once or twice, and make a brief appearance just before the whole turgid soap-opera finally fades to black. One quickly gets the sense that CGI extraterrestrial human-eating lifeforms aren’t cheap, and this is an adventure on a seriously tight budget.

The budget doesn’t look to have run to a tripod, either. Monsters appears to have been shot using a deliberately unsteady Steadicam, to avail it of a sense of immediacy and rough-edged guerilla cinematography. The effect is more closely akin to sea-sickness, and we all recall Monsters most vividly for the raging headaches it had beset us with by the time it rolled down its curtain.

The monsters in Monsters are quickly rendered secondary to the film’s principal themes of poverty and corruption south of the border, and frequent allusions to America being imprisoned within its own border security, rather than defended by it. The climactic final image of the border – a immense crenellated bulwark of walled defenses that turn out to be abandoned, defending nothing – is carried off with the grace and poetic subtlety of a tactical nuke.

The most optimistic synopsis of Monsters is that it spends an hour and a half doing nothing of interest, but it does successfully tease its viewers with the promise of a truly disturbing ending. It’s unclear whether the film’s writer couldn’t think of one, or its producer couldn’t afford it.

I can’t recall the closing credits of a movie have ever having been so welcomed.