Thursday, February 10, 2011


While this doesn’t really qualify as a horror movie despite the monsters alluded to in the title and so doesn’t qualify for the Top Ten Horror Movies of 2010 list I’m still considering doing for this blog, I’m quite glad I saw this, as it’s one of the more intelligent and subtle films of the year. I’m not sure whether to say the social commentary is blatant or subtle, as it’s rather blatant that they’re making social commentary, but somewhat subtle in what exactly it is they’re talking about.

The film is somewhat minimalist in its cast, mostly just following around two characters, Andrew (Scoot McNairy) and Samantha (Whitney Able). He’s a photographer that’s finally managed to get clearance to photograph the giant aliens that have taken up residence in Mexico (I could be wrong, but the map of the Infected Zone does seem to encompass that entire country), but finds himself stymied by having to first secure passage for his boss’s daughter back to the United States. They miss the ferry after being robbed the night before, and so he has no choice but to escort her all the way through the Infected Zone of Mexico.

The aliens, who came here on a NASA probe that was sent out in a search for extraterrestrial life, are pretty massive, though not quite on a Godzilla or Cloverfield scale. The United States has erected a wall around the Infected Zone (Subtextual Hint: Much like the border fences our government has put along the Mexico border) and frequently sends soldiers out to kill the monsters, though they seem to be fairly docile unless attacked first. The bulk of the movie is just the two of them, wandering through the forests of Mexico, learning about each other and the aliens, who he still hopes to photograph in hopes of defining his career.

There really isn’t much in the way of a story for the film, it’s mostly just a premise that gets the two leads talking and bouncing off of each other. For example, she asks him how it feels to do a job where he doesn’t make any money unless someone’s in pain, to which he replies “you mean like doctors?” Of course it goes a bit further than that, but it was a nice immediate rejoinder to her intentionally antagonistic bullshit. Point is, they have some great chemistry together, and they don’t shy away from uncomfortable topics, which is kind of essential for a film whose main purpose in existing is to quietly explore such issues under the guise of a sci-fi movie.

Of course, there are some problems with the film, if you’re a nitpicking asshole like myself. First, while I appreciate that it’s less a straightforward movie than it is an extended metaphor, it would be nice if there were still a bit more plot to the film. I don’t need action every minute, but when close to half the film is just two people walking through the jungle talking, it can get a bit taxing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need a big gun fight every ten minutes or anything to be happy, but I do want something more to happen. Sure, they have to deal with occasional encounters with the aliens, and it does become rather tense when they reach the edge of the Infected Zone and call in the military to get evacuated out, but the majority of the film is just two people talking. It’s mostly interesting conversations, but come on.

Still, it is a mostly fascinating movie, and if there’s not enough going on, at least it’s more intelligent and thoughtful than most films that came out last year. This was writer/director Gareth Edwards’ directorial debut (aside from some TV work that I’m not counting), and it makes me pretty damn eager to see what he’s got up his sleeve next. He did a damn fine job with this film, and should hopefully have a nice long career ahead of him.

Rating: *** ½

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