Looks like a fun horror movie, right? WRONG!
Political commentary is an important part of horror. Most movies have it, even the classics, though you may not notice it. This commentary can range from social issues such as women's rights and racial equality to political issues like healthcare and immigration. Most movies use this commentary as an undercurrent for the story itself, helping, but not overshadowing the horror itself. Dawn Of The Dead is a prime example of making many social points while still putting on an entertaining and fun zombie movie. Other movies, though, put the commentary front and center with less focus on horror.
Monsters is a 2010 science fiction horror movies starring Whitney Able (Remarkable Power, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) as Samantha Wynden and Scoot McNairy (Bones, My Name Is Earl) as Andrew Kaulder. A few years ago, a NASA deep-space probe crash landed in Mexico, exposing the area to alien life forms. These life forms, which look like a giant octopus with insect legs, spread throughout the area, leading the United States to build a giant wall and quarantining the northern half of Mexico. Andrew is a photographer taking pictures in Mexico of the monster's devastation when he is hired by his wealthy employer to help his daughter Samantha escape Mexico. At first Andrew resists, but is pressured into taking the journey by Samantha's father. Samantha is engaged to be married, but has serious reservations about the man who is to be her husband. Andrew has a young son whom he loves, but rarely gets to see. Samantha plans to take a ferry back to the United States, but after forking over $5,000, they realize that their passports have been stolen. She gives her engagement ring in exchange for help crossing the border. Samantha and Andrew have to take various illegal means to get close to the border while dodging dangerous terrain and the monsters. As their journey continues, they grow close together, confiding in each other. When they reach the border, they find it deserted. As the cross into the States, they find an empty town that appears to have been hit by an air raid. Have the monsters made it across the wall and what will happen to Andrew and Samantha.
Smile! Your life has been ruined!
Monsters is probably more closely associated with science-fiction than horror, but there are just enough horror themes and tropes for it to make the cut. As I said before, it's important for a horror movie to have social commentary. Monsters decides to take that social commentary, shove entertainment out of the way, and bash the audience over the head with it. Believe me, I like social commentary. I studied political science and have worked in politics. I get it and appreciate it when it is done properly. The commentary in the movie is smart and well-thought out, but presented in such a way that made it difficult to sit through. I know what Writer/Director Gareth Edwards was going for, remarking on such things as immigration, the Drug War, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Government, but it's in such a heavy-handed way that professional wrestler Ronnie “Hands of Stone” Garvin should have gotten a production credit.
All of this commentary takes away from most of the scares in the film. The movie was made incredibly cheap which may explain why we rarely see the monsters. They look good, but we really should have seen them a lot more. I mean, the movie is called “Monsters”. Beyond the clever little commentary via the title, I want to see some fucking monsters, not skinny white people talking about their feelings. Most of the movie is just Samantha and Andrew wandering around, almost like a road/buddy movie without the humor. The scenery is pretty fantastic allowing the audience to at least look at something pretty while they're waiting for something to happen. It doesn't really occur as there is very little in the way of action. I found the characters of Samantha and Andrew fairly unpleasant, but not too annoying. Their blossoming love was far too convenient and not particularly believably. On the acting side, both Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy were fine. Not great, but fine.
Hey, put 'Jersey Shore' on!
Monsters is the type of movie other filmmakers love; All talk and very little action. I wish the budget had been bigger for this movie with more scenes of the monsters. It lacked the proper amount of action necessary for it to be entertaining. There are a few scary scenes and some suspense, but not nearly enough. The social commentary is smart, but there is just way too much of it. You are constantly slammed on all sides at all times by the messages. If you're not politically active, you may miss some of the references and ideas, but I don't have that luxury. As far as the story itself goes, it's nothing special and should have had more action. If you're a film school student, you'll probably appreciate it, but if you're looking for good horror and science fiction, look elsewhere.