Review: “Monsters” (2010)

If you caught the trailer for Monsters earlier this year, you probably got excited and giddy at the thought of creatures lurking around Mexico, wanting to eat your flesh. It looked like a fresh take on the monster movie, a genre which has taken a backseat to recent horror expeditions into slasher, paranormal, demonic, and torturous territories.

The monster movie is the original horror film archetype. It gets at the core of the genre: something otherworldly stepping into our world and fucking with us. The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and even King Kong get at this, which is why they are classics.

Monsters is not a classic horror film and in no way can be construed as such. But it does get to the heart of what classic horror oftentimes can do: call our attention to something happening in our world.

Monsters is about aliens who are only on Earth because America has been poking around the universe, being where it shouldn’t be. The aliens find themselves in Mexico, below Texas and above Guadalajara, approximately. As a tour guide to this exotic locale we are given journalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) (yes, Scoot.), a cool young American guy who is just looking for his next big shot: one of these aliens. But with major media corporations being such a bitch, he is saddled with an annoying task: find and return a young Ellen Barkin, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), to her magazine-owning, media mogul of a father, who is Kaulder’s boss’ boss’ boss (or something).

The two traipse around Mexico, slightly in privilege, trying to make a boat to America. The problems they encounter include that Kaulder is a bit of an asshole, Wynden is all sorts of rich-girl-with-problems, and the Zona Infectada will be impassable in a few hours, as the American military is going to attack the shit out of some aliens. So, of course, the two literally miss their boat and have to improvise a way to get back to America, in an Apocalypse Now type of trek.

I hate to break it everyone reading this, but Monsters is not a horror movie: it’s a modern science fiction allegory akin to Moon and Catfish. It is very good, but just does not deliver on the promise of scares and ominousness that the trailer makes. Much like Catfish, you’re likely going to feel a little bit robbed. Most unfortunately, for a movie with a title like “Monsters,” there is barely any interaction with them.

Rather, you hear the monsters, you see what they do, you see what they have done, and you see what we are doing to them. The idea of the monsters plaguing people is bigger than the actual monsters plaguing them. We end up chasing them around for a while, and then try to escape them to get to alien-free America.

If you haven’t noticed yet, this is a not-so-obvious commentary on Mexican immigration and – a little late to the party – commentary on the Iraqi war. It does do a good job of creating an allegory of “monstering” Mexicans and immigration. In turn, it also monsters the Americans for attacking these innocent creatures that we actually stole away from their planet. (NOTE: Pay attention to what is happening at the beginning of the film in the opening credits.)


Whitney Able

Again, this is not necessarily bad; it’s just been done before. Movies of this breed can be good, but they get too caught up in themselves sometimes. Monsters tries to do what 28 Weeks Later did for the Iraq war, but instead it falls somewhere near episodes two and three of The Walking Dead: well intentioned, but needlessly overdramatic.

It also doesn’t help that the cast – Scoot and Whitney – are chasing each other around in young love. Even as the main intrigue of the film builds around them, they actually become slightly unlikeable. Which may not be a bad thing, in the bigger scheme – remember, Americans are the enemies here.

One thing that did make me 100% insane was how much Whitney looked like Ellen Barkin. It was as if she was trying to become her in the movie. I don’t know if this was doing any extra “work” for the film, but it definitely made me slightly annoyed that it wasn’t Barkin herself.


Scoot McNairy

And is Scoot McNairy attractive? I watched this movie twice and could not solve the puzzle: he’s handsome, but he looks like he has some sort of thinning disease. He plays such an unlikablely likable guy that you want to hate him, but can you? I mean, he is begrudgingly helping a girl get back to her family. But his chest hair? Some of the weirdest stuff I have ever seen. If you can figure out if he is attractive or not in this film, do let me know (as I am easily swayed on this).

Monsters isn’t bad, but it isn’t good. You buy a ticket for a monster movie and get bait-and-switched into a story about immigration. That’s fine. And, that’s exactly why I was disappointed: this film is just fine.

PLEASE NOTE: This movie is in limited release in theaters. However – SURPRISE – you can actually rent it on iTunes!

RATING (OUT OF 5):

Monsters is rated R for language, Scoot McNairy’s confusing chest hair, Whitney Able as Ellen Barkin as her character Samantha Wynden, and UGH NOT ENOUGH MONSTERS.


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About KYLERAYMOND

A gay military kid who lived up and down the east coast finally decided to venture out West--and hasn't returned. With a love for horror films, champagne, short shorts, and CAPS LOCK, he spends his time writing, doing comedy, and being an assistant (oy). He has a dog and collects magazines with Lady Gaga on the cover, too.