Monday, September 6, 2010

A Movie of Monster Proportions

Unlike some reviewers (I'm looking at you Johnny Thunder!) I'm not so opposed to the "found footage" style of movie making, though I'll readily agree that too many movies are using the technique and not always to good effect. Like 3-D or the endless parade of remakes, it is being overdone.

Yet when a movie like Cloverfield or Rec (and I actually preferred the Spanish version; even though I couldn't understand a word of what was said, I knew what was happening) comes out, I thoroughly enjoy the films. While the Blair Witch Project is the granddaddy of them all, I found the ending unsatisfying. We didn't need to see whatever it was necessarily, but it definitely needed more closure. That's why I feel Cloverfield and Rec were excellent examples of what a director can do with the found footage technique. It gave viewers at least an ending.

I recall from one of my creative writing classes my professor admonishing me because I took the lazy way out with the ending of the story. It was something along the lines of "I guess we'll never really know what happened." She was right. It was a B.S. maneuver because it saved me from having to think about how to end the story and diminished whatever else came before it.

All too often these days it seems directors don't know how to end their movies and they do some slapdash closing that ruins the rest of the film that preceded it, no matter how much you were into it. And with ticket prices being what they are, Hollywood needs to respect their audience a little more than they do. It's why I try at all costs to avoid going to the theater and prefer renting my movies from Redbox (and I'd never, ever think of watching a bootleg movie!).

All of this ranting is coming about because of a new movie that's due out next month called "Monsters." Supposedly made for something on the order of $15,000, it's not exactly a "found footage" style, but it has that flavor to it. Nevertheless, the trailers have a lush feel to them and according to one review I read, it is something of "Cloverfield meets The African Queen" (hopefully you do know what The African Queen is).

I have to thank Patrick Nottingham of The Raven's Barrow for cluing me into this movie. He posted a trailer of the movie and it looked so good to me that I went off on a hunt for other information. I found another trailer, as well as a small clip, and this movie looks like one I'm going to like.

The synopsis is that a U.S. space probe went looking for other life forms and apparently found them, but crash landed in Mexico with them aboard upon its return to Earth. Now northern Mexico is a quarantined zone. A photojournalist hired to capture shots of the devastation the aliens have wrought has to accompany his publisher's daughter back to the U.S. border, but their journey goes awry and they travel through the heart of the infected area.

Here's another clip from the movie:

From the reviews I read from people who viewed the film at various festivals, the movie is that good, all the more so because of its miniscule budget. And despite its title, there are actually very few shots of the aliens. "Monsters" turns out to be more of a road trip love story (egads!) than an actual blood-and-guts gorefest, but there is enough suspense, drama, and thrills built up along the way that it compensates for the lack of actual monsters appearing in the film.

I don't mind this really. Character and plot development count for a lot more with me than simply seeing monsters, blood, and terror (not that those are bad in and of themselves). But think of all the movies you've seen that have had plenty of the latter but little of the former -- and how much those movies sucked -- and you get the picture of why I'm looking for a director who invests time in his script.

From the looks of the trailers Monsters is a movie I'd actually pay money to go see (or maybe just use my Optimum Rewards card and go for free on a Tuesday). So long as the director doesn't shoot the pooch with a poor ending, I'm willing to go along for the ride.


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