Welcome to what Independent film looks like now.
Made for the cost of a plane ticket to Mexico, a set of Adobe After Effects, and the change in his pocket Gareth Edward’s (remember the name because you’ll be hearing it for a long long time) Monsters is one of those films that doesn’t simply raise the bar. It becomes the bar.
The film carries with it, not a whisper of the digital sheen of cheapness. It’s a gorgeous film and more importantly a tactile one. I kept waiting for the façade to crack, for the world Edwards created to reveal itself as nothing but a guy with a camcorder and a few amateur actors. Aside from a few rubbery shots glanced on passing television screens it never did. Even in the strange, tentatively beautiful finale when we see the creatures in full for the first time, it holds up.
The film takes place a few years after an alien, well not invasion but migration, took half of Mexico as its territory. A freelance reporter and his boss's daughter are forced to travel through the infected zone. It's a place both decimated and eerily beautiful. A Place which resembles Earth less and less with each passing mile.
I’ve read reviews in which people complain about the film on a narrative level. Setting aside for a moment that Monsters true triumph is doing what all great Sci Fi does, not so much telling a story as creating a world. I actually quite liked the somewhat languid pace. More then anything it reminded me of another swamp bound, texture heavy creature feature, The Legend Of Boggy Creek (I mean that as a good thing.) It’s true those holding their breath for a big show stopping bit of Smash Tokyo will be disappointed. But I even found this criticism a little over emphasized. It’s not as if the Monsters spend the film picking flowers and holding hands. There are a few attacks, which are well staged, frightening and give a true feeling of the scale of the things and their unknowable nature. Monsters may be a film of grace notes not crescendos, but that doesn’t mean it won’t live up to the title.
After viewing Monsters it’ll be impossible to watch another ultra cheapo Paranormal Activity knockoff with anything but contempt. In his review of that film, The Outlaw Vern said, “This is a video I like films.” I’ve felt a similar antipathy for the mumblecore movement. The democratization of film production has led to many great things, but its also shredded aesthetics. It’s not like I’m some snobbish uber formalist. But making an independent movie used to be just that. You proving you could make a movie. Now it’s about proving that you can get a half dozen of your friends to stand in front of your camera and smoke whilst spouting nonsequiters. Why take the time to frame a shot like Sam Raimi, Jim Jaramusch or Richard Linklater? Making something that looks like a movie is no longer requisite for making a movie.
But not anymore.
It's official, you’re limited by nothing but the bonds of your talent and imagination. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet your new Gold Standard. This is as the kids say some next level shit. But it's also something rarer and more valuable. That oh so infrequent movie that leaves you both satisfied and wanting more.