When a film is titled “Monsters,” one might actually expect monsters to appear once in a while. This time, this doesn’t happen very often, so if you choose to watch this film, know that you aren’t getting yourself into a true monster film. What you’ll get here is a drama — and an ultimately unsuccessful one at that. At least, I didn’t feel anything after watching it, but I suppose one must care in order for a drama to work.
The story follows two people — not monsters — who are attempting to get back to America. They begin in Mexico, and meet a large amount of resistance in their attempt to accomplish their end goal. Along the way, they meet a lot of people — also not monsters — who are either willing to help or hinder their quest. In essence, it’s a film that plays out like a travel log of their journey. There’s a reason that random travel journals don’t get made into movies: They aren’t interesting.
By now you’ve probably gathered that I was disappointed that there weren’t many monsters within the film. This isn’t a problem by itself, but when the film is advertised in a way that leads you to believe that there are a lot of monsters, and the opening scene also leads you to this belief, getting a character study instead is likely to lead to you to become disappointed. The opening scene shows some soldiers shooting at the aforementioned monsters. This scene looks like it was taken directly out of Cloverfield, except that there’s a different filter applied to the camera, and the monsters that are being shot at are different than the one in Cloverfield.
But let’s forget for a moment that we’ve been mislead. Let’s put that thought out of our minds, and judge Monsters as a drama that focuses on the budding relationship between its two lead characters. It’s still not very good. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the majority of the problems come directly from the film’s script, which is just terrible.
It’s terrible for a couple of reasons. Firstly, and probably most importantly, the dialogue is just awful. The characters don’t speak or relate to one another like regular people would, which makes it hard to see the film as an attempt at realism. When you’re making a drama, this is something that you need. You need the audience to believe in these people, and you need the characters to be ones that the audience will want to see make it through to the end. I wanted the monsters to show up randomly and eat them or crush them with their tentacles. Sorry, I guess I’ve still got monsters on the brain.
The second issue with the script is the situations that it puts its characters into. Now, the first 50 or so minutes of the film can be summed up like this: The two characters try to get back to America, but have trouble in doing so. After that, things actually happen that are entertaining. But by this point, the film has lost your attention, and caring past here is something that I couldn’t bring myself to do. I’ll give you an example of what I mean by giving the characters poor situations to deal with. The man (Scoot McNairy), someone who has only known his travel companion, the girl (Whitney Able) for a day or so, ends up getting drunk and ends up spending the night with some other girl. Our lead female finds this out, and instead of talking to him about it — even though she’s engaged and shouldn’t be jealous anyway — runs away.
And what does this lead to? Absolutely nothing. He chases her, she stops, they converse, and then the trip continues after we find out the first major problem that the pair has to overcome. There are so many reasons that this scene feels unrealistic, and the poorly written dialogue hurts it even further. There are similar scenes (not in nature, but in the same spirit), that are scattered throughout the film, leading me to believe that if all of the pointlessness was removed, we’d have about 35-40 minutes of film left.
I’ll give the filmmakers credit in one area, though: Their film looks nice. Shot on a budget of under $1,000,000 and without filming permits (they hired locals to play all of the extras as well), the film actually looks quite good. Now, some of this credit comes from the scenery. The film was shot entirely on-location, which means that it should look good by nature. The special effects used for the monsters are, like I said, sparse, but they function when they pop up. And considering the film’s budget, I’d say they look pretty darn good.
Monsters did not impress me. From the misleading opening to the fact that once I accepted that it was a drama, it still wasn’t entertaining. The script is the biggest detractor, which gives the characters awful dialogue and uninteresting and unrealistic situations. The film looks nice, and for its low budget, the monsters it has do look pretty good. It’s just that we needed more of them, as well as some characters we could believe in. Because we don’t get either, Monsters fails.