Monsters (2010 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gareth Edwards|
|Written by||Gareth Edwards|
|Music by||Jon Hopkins|
|Edited by||Colin Goudie|
|Distributed by||Vertigo Films|
|Running time||94 minutes|
|Budget||Less than $500,000|
|Box office||$4.2 million|
Monsters is a 2010 British independent science fiction monster film. The film was written and directed by Gareth Edwards in his feature film directorial debut. Edwards also served as the cinematographer, visual effects artist, and storyboard artist. Monsters takes place years after an extraterrestrial invasion of Mexico. It follows Andrew Kauler (played by Scoot McNairy), an American photojournalist tasked with escorting his employer's daughter Samantha (played by Whitney Able) through Mexico into the United States.
Edwards conceived the idea for the film after seeing fishermen attempt to bring a creature in with a net, and imagining a monster inside. He pitched the idea to Vertigo Films, who suggested he watch In Search of a Midnight Kiss, a low-budget film starring Scoot McNairy. Edwards decided to cast McNairy and his then-girlfriend Whitney Able—also an actress, and now McNairy's wife—in the lead roles. Principal photography lasted three weeks, with a production crew consisting of six people. Filming took place in five countries, and many locations were used without permission. Most of the extras were people who were at these locations during filming, and were persuaded to act in it; all of their dialogue was improvised.
Monsters premiered at South by Southwest on 13 March 2010. Five days later, Magnet Releasing acquired the rights to distribute it in North America. It had a limited release in 25 theatres there, beginning on 29 October 2010, followed by a theatrical release in the United Kingdom on 3 December 2010. The film received positive reviews and was a box office success, grossing US$4.2 million against a budget of less than $500,000.
After a NASA deep-space probe crash lands in Mexico, extraterrestrial life forms spread throughout the Mexico–United States border region, leading to the quarantine of the northern half of Mexico. US and Mexican troops battle to contain the creatures, while a wall stretching along the American border ostensibly keeps the US protected.
American photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) receives a call from his employer, who tasks Andrew with finding his daughter, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) and escorting her back to the US. Andrew locates Samantha in a Mexican hospital and the pair board a train, until learning the tracks ahead have been damaged. They discover that if they do not leave the country within a few days, sea and air travel will be blocked for six months. Andrew and Samantha decide to hitchhike their way to the border.
Andrew buys Samantha an expensive ferry ticket from a greedy ferry owner for the next morning. After enjoying the local nightlife together, Andrew sleeps with a local girl who steals their passports. Unable to board the ferry, Samantha is forced to barter her engagement ring for passage through the quarantine zone.
They travel by riverboat until being transferred to a group of armed escorts who are to lead them overland to the Mexico–US border. The convoy is attacked by the creatures. Andrew and Samantha escape, but none of the guards survive. Continuing on, they discover the bodies of dead travellers and bond at the top of an ancient pyramid in sight of the US border wall. By the time they reach the border, the creatures have broken through. They travel through a ghost town in Texas, find an abandoned gas station with power and call the army for help.
While waiting for help to arrive, they make phone calls to their respective families. A lone creature silently approaches the station. Hiding, Samantha observes several tentacles exploring the inside of the store, seemingly soaking up the TV set's light. Samantha quickly unplugs the TV and the creature loses interest. Another creature appears, and Samantha and Andrew watch in amazement as they communicate with one another and mate via light impulses. The creatures then leave as the military arrives. Samantha and Andrew are rushed into different vehicles by the army rescue.
Edwards had the idea for the film while watching some fishermen struggling to haul in their net and imagining a monster. He had the idea to make a monster movie set "years after most other monster movies end, when people aren't running and screaming, but life is going on" and "where a giant, dead sea monster is considered completely normal." He pitched the idea to Vertigo Films, and they asked Edwards to watch a film called In Search of a Midnight Kiss which starred Scoot McNairy and had been made for $15,000. As the chemistry between the lead characters was pivotal, he wanted a real couple to portray them. He hired McNairy's then-girlfriend, actress Whitney Able, to co-star.
The film was devised, storyboarded and directed by Gareth Edwards, while Allan Niblo and James Richardson of Vertigo Films served as producers. The filming equipment cost approximately $15,000, with the budget coming in at "way under" $500,000. The film was able to be made on such a low budget due to the use of prosumer cameras to capture digital video rather than the more expensive 35mm film. Many settings featured in the film were real locations—often used without permission—and most of the extras were people who were already at the filming locations. As most of the extras were non-actors who were persuaded to be in the film, their action was improvised. Edwards had to abandon specific dialogue, and instead wrote outlines describing "the main points that had to be hit".
The film was shot in Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and the United States over three weeks. For about 90% of the principal photography, the crew consisted of seven people transported in one van: Ian Maclagan (sound operator), Jim Spencer (line producer), Verity Oswin the Mexican 'fixer', Edwards, a driver, and Able and McNairy, the stars. As the film's low budget did not cover a camera dolly, Edwards improvised by sticking the camera out of the van's window, cushioned on some bundled-up clothing.
Editing and effects
Every night during the shooting period, the editor Colin Goudie and his assistant Justin Hall would download the day's footage so the memory sticks could be cleared and ready for the next day's filming. While new footage was being captured, the previously captured footage was being edited back at the hotel in which the production team was staying. After filming concluded, the crew had over 100 hours of unique, ad-libbed footage to edit.
The original cut was over four hours long, but this was trimmed to 94 minutes after eight months of editing. Once the film's length was locked, Edwards did all the special effects himself using off-the-shelf Adobe software, ZBrush and Autodesk 3ds Max. He had five months to create all 250 visual effects shots, a process he undertook in his bedroom. He produced two shots a day until he reached the first creature shot, when "suddenly two months went by and [he] still hadn't finished a single creature shot". Edwards stated that the creatures' visual effects were the most challenging element of production. Owing to time constraints, the sound effects had to be produced before the special effects were undertaken. Edwards stated that the advances in computer technology in recent years made it possible for him to create the film's visual effects on such a low budget.
Monsters premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival, as part of the SX Fantastic screenings, on 13 March 2010. On 17 March, Magnet Releasing acquired the rights for the North American distribution. In May, the film was screened at the Cannes Film Market. Monsters had its UK premiere as part of the 64th Edinburgh International Film Festival, on 18 June 2010. The Los Angeles Film Festival also held two screenings, part of the Summer Showcase, on 23 and 26 June. The film's theatrical release took place in Russia on 30 September, distributed by Volgafilm. Magnolia Pictures released Monsters in US theatres on 29 October 2010. The Canadian theatrical release was on 5 November, after DFilms acquired the rights on 24 May 2010.
In the weeks leading up to the UK release date of 3 December 2010 a marketing campaign using social network Foursquare was announced. Vue Entertainment and Cineworld Cinemas set up 'infected locations' which gave users access to exclusive Monsters content and the chance to win random on-the-spot prizes.
Monsters received generally positive reviews from critics, receiving a 72% "fresh", or 7.1/10 rating, on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes with the site's consensus stating, "It doesn't quite live up to its intriguing premise, but Monsters is a surprising blend of alien-invasion tropes, political themes, and relationship drama." Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half out of four stars and said "Monsters holds our attention ever more deeply as we realize it's not a casual exploitation picture." Peter Bradshaw reviewed the film for The Guardian and gave it four stars out of five, described the film as a "terrifically exciting sci-fi movie" and concluded that Edwards "channels the upriver nightmares of [Werner] Herzog and [Francis Ford] Coppola, with a strong streak of Spielbergian wonder at the sight of two aliens apparently dancing". The film ranked No. 3 on Moviefone's Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of 2010 list.
Monsters grossed $4.2 million from worldwide ticket sales, of which $237,301 was earned in North America during a 59-day run ending 26 December 2010.
Monsters was nominated for six British Independent Film Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, and eventually won the Best Director, Best Technical Achievement, and Best Achievement in Production awards. At the 2011 BAFTAs, Monsters was nominated for Outstanding Debut by a British Director, but lost to Four Lions. It won Best Independent Movie at the 2011 Scream Awards, and was nominated for Best Science Fiction Movie but it lost to Super 8.
A sequel titled Monsters: Dark Continent started filming in March 2013 in Jordan and Detroit with Tom Green directing, Jay Basu writing and Gareth Edwards and Scoot McNairy returning as executive producers. Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley and Joe Dempsie will star in the film.
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- Monsters sequel shoot underway
- Official website
- Monsters at AllMovie
- Monsters at Box Office Mojo
- Monsters at the Internet Movie Database
- Monsters at Rotten Tomatoes