By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders
Monsters is District 9 with a language barrier. The film is set in Mexico after an alien invasion. The creatures have been quarantined in an infected zone. The hero is a photojournalist hired by his editor to bring the editor’s daughter home from Mexico. Want to guess how they’ll have to make their perilous journey.
The film really sets the scene of a world where monsters exist and people have to function in a world of the aftermath. You see the wreckage in the background of Mexico. You see burnt out tanks, helicopters and airplane engines littering the streets. That suggests the battles you don’t see, and it’s kind of more interesting because it’s just a world these characters have to exist in. Another nice touch is children’s animation about creature safety. That’s just the world they live in.
You only get glimpses of the creatures in night vision or TV news footage. Obviously that’s a creative way to get around big budget visual effects, but film scholars know it’s also the way to create effective suspense without eye candy. When you do see something it’s cool and creative.
All the danger is established in the story, not in seeing the action. It builds tension, suspense and excitement with only a few stunts and effects. The scenery really says a lot. If you have to survive, seeing what you’re up against is all it takes. Certainly the issue of Spanish speaking locals creates further problems.
Characters have really good dialogue that tells you about them without spelling it out. Talk about journalistic ethics is really good. It gives the actors a lot to establish their presence with, and it seems to go further than having celebrity action heroes in the roles would have.
District 9 is probably the preferred marketing comparison. I suppose the artistic distinction is that D9 is the action version and Monsters is the M. Night Shyamalan version where nothing actually happens to the characters but they have to deal with it the whole time. Hope Gareth Edwards appreciates that comparison.