Watching Monsters is like listening to someone butcher an awesome joke. They get the setup down and make you wait expectantly for the hilarious punch line. Then when it’s time to deliver the goods, they punch you in the face and steal your watch.
Such was my experience with Monsters, a film which is desperately in need of a disclaimer in its advertising. Maybe something like, “Hope you like movies where nothing happens”, or perhaps more simply, “Boooooooooring”.
To be fair, it does do a lot of things right, but in the end, it’ll just leave 90% of movie-goers staring blankly at the screen. “That’s it?” they’ll all wonder. Yup, that’s it – enjoy your cinematic blue balls.
What they get right
The two leads (Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy) are excellent. They’re charismatic and feel genuine. The dialogue feels organic too. It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of it was made up on the spot, because the script felt so natural. In particular, a scene where a drunk Scoot tries to pathetically convince Whitney to let him inside for ‘a nightcap’ sounds exactly like how it would go down in real life. Believe me, I know.
The aliens look good too. Judging from the trailer, I figured this would be the sort of film where you barely see the creatures – and for the most part it is – but they do show up, and when they do, they look fantastic. Considering the budget for this film was $15,000, the effects were surprisingly polished.
Where they screw up
I’m a big fan of slow pacing in monster movies. I think the perfect example of this is the first ‘Alien’ flick. It doesn’t rush into anything, but by the second half of the movie, things get crazy.
Monsters gets half of that formula right. I’ll let you guess which half.
A nice slow pace can really add to character development while it simultaneously builds tension, but for the love of god something needs to happen by the halfway mark. If there’s five minutes left in your movie and I’m still waiting for the epic monstery moment to arrive, then you sir are a bastard.
Monsters is not a monster movie. It’s not a horror and it’s not a suspense either. It’s a road trip drama set in a world where aliens have landed on Earth. Trouble is, Joe and Jane Movie-Watcher randomly walking into it won’t know that, and chances are, they’ll be expecting Monsters to have a little more monster and lot less suck.