$500,000 doesn’t buy you much in Hollywood in these days of CGI heavy films – looking at just three of this years offerings (Inception, Iron Man 2 & Harry Potter) the result is somewhere between $1.1 – 1.7 million per minute of screen time. All four of these films share the fact that there are major digital tweaks throughout, so to do this on a $5,000 per minute budget puts an interesting spin on things.
To put this in further perspective, you’re looking at a half the per minute ratio of Another Year – an actor driven, zero special effects film outside of the studio system to get a comparable basis on a supported cinema release.
That compared to the three Hollywood offerings only Inception stands up as being something as original as Monsters indicates that budget isn’t everything – indeed it could be argued that with a greater budget the Director (Writer, Cameraman, Chief Effects Artist and we suspect Tea-Boy) Gareth Edwards may not have created as interesting a film as he has. Monsters is an alien invasion film without the invasion, one where man isn’t fighting for survival but rather to live alongside his new neighbours. It’s an invasion film where the aliens are truly alien (they have no motive beyond eating, sleeping & reproducing) and no attempt is made to determine what they truly are.
Instead we are left to ponder what effect such an occurrence would have on the environment – a sort of Terence Malick’s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, except without the fear and loathing – these creatures may not even want to harm us, they may just be inquisitive. The whole story is told from the perspective of our two guides, there is no cutting back to scientists trying to deal with the problem (we may be the problem, we never see any of them initiate an attack) or the government response besides snatches on TV sets in the background. The two principle actors (the only professionals in the cast) have a sense of easy naturalism hat sells the story further.
Edwards will no doubt be offered bigger budgets, along with more conventionally aimed films, but it would be a shame if he was to loose some of the sensibilities this film displays. Behind the B-Movie title and façade lies something far more interesting and thought provoking.