Monsters: Dark Continent (2014)

Monsters

“Fear has Evolved”

Directed Tom Green
Starring Johnny Harris and Sam Keeley

When alien life-forms spread from Mexico to the Middle East, the active role of US forces stationed there in combating the aliens provokes local insurgency. Four friends from Detroit are dropped into the midst of this two-fronted campaign under the command of experienced sergeants Frater (Harris) and Forrest. When a search and rescue mission goes pear-shaped, Frater and the last surviving recruit, Michael (Keeley) are trapped, surrounded by unfriendly forces.

What’s wrong with it?

The sequel to 2010’s Monsters begins with captions describing the spread of non-technological alien life from Mexico to the Middle East, apparently bypassing all the fiddling intermediate areas like the Atlantic Ocean and Europe; or even Africa (which, just as a note, is the usual recipient of the rather derogatory epithet ‘dark continent’.)

The film’s human component is a mess of cliches trying to make a serious point. The unbelievable mish-mash of tired ‘last night at home’ tropes that constitutes our introduction to Michael and his soon-to-be late friends is all the more risible for the fact that our four Detroit street punks are played by a quartet of British soap actors.

Overall the decision to base the film around the US military with a predominantly British cast and crew feels odd. It’s not as if there’s no British presence in the Middle East or the issues of war and the tension between the local population and external military forces are unique to the Americans.

The aliens are… actually kind of irrelevant. It’s like a so-so version of the Hurt Locker with some gribblies in the background.

With all the effort put into the aliens, some of what should be solid practical effects are oddly flat, including a human who appears to spout blue-black blood from a headshot.

What’s right with it?

Monsters showcased some incredible low-budget effects, and the aliens in Monsters: Dark Continent look pretty fantastic.

How bad is it really?

Monsters: Dark Continent feels like it involved a huge amount of work, building on a strong foundation, to create something entirely ho-hum which squanders the potential of its central conceit to tell a story that, while perhaps relevant to our times, has as a result been told many times and to which this adds little that is new.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The film is strongest calling back to the themes of the original film, when the aliens show compassion and care for their own.

What’s up with…?

  • The pals platoon? Does the US military recruit entire units from the same neighbourhood like that?

Ratings

Production values – The aliens are excellent, and much of the production design effective, but there is something not quite there in some of the simpler effects. 8
Dialogue and performances – The dialogue is pretty cliche ridden and often mumbled, in deference to the film’s naturalistic style. 13
Plot and execution – The film stands uncomfortably between ecological science fiction and gritty war movie, and doesn’t do either entirely well. 14
Randomness – Michael’s attitude seems to ebb and flow without much rhyme or reason, but otherwise it’s pretty consistent. 5
Waste of potential – Monsters was a low budget gem that secured its director the Godzilla gig. Tom Green has yet to be offered the next War of the Worlds for a reason. 15

Overall 55%

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