Monsters (2010 film)

Monsters (2010 film)

UK theatrical release poster
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Produced by
Written by Gareth Edwards
  • Whitney Able
  • Scoot McNairy
Music by Jon Hopkins
Cinematography Gareth Edwards
Editing by Colin Goudie
Distributed by Magnet Releasing (US)
Vertigo Films (UK)
Release date(s) October 29, 2010 (2010-10-29) (United States: limited)
December 3, 2010 (2010-12-03) (United Kingdom)
Running time 94 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $500,000[1]
Box office $4,188,738[1]

Monsters is a 2010 British science fiction film,[2] written, shot and directed by Gareth Edwards.[3] Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy star in the lead roles.[4]



After a NASA deep-space probe crash lands in Mexico, alien life forms spread throughout the U.S.–Mexico border region, leading to the quarantine of the northern half of Mexico. The U.S. and Mexican militaries battle to contain the creatures, while a wall stretching along the American border ostensibly keeps the United States protected. The film begins with night vision footage of a US Army patrol driving through a town in the middle of the night. One of the soldiers is humming Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries". An explosion flips one of the vehicles, and flashes of gunfire show US soldiers firing at an enormous tentacled creature. In the background, a radio transmission from one of the soldiers obtains approval for a dangerously close air strike. Meanwhile, a civilian screams for help and attempts to drag a woman off the road and away from the creature. The soldiers withdraw as the man is left behind, lifting the woman and trying to carry her away. Moments later, an air-to-ground missile homes in on the creature.

The scene changes to Andrew, a young American photojournalist, who is hired by his wealthy employer to get the latter's daughter Samantha back to the United States from San José, Central America. Andrew has no interest in being an escort, while Samantha seems at odds with her impending marriage to her fiancé.

While traveling to the Mexican coast to get a boat to the United States, the pair are temporarily slowed down by the destruction of the railroad. If they do not leave the country within a few days, sea and air travel will be blocked, and they will have to wait six months before safe travel is possible.

Arriving at the port, Andrew buys Samantha a ferry ticket to return to America the next morning at 7 o'clock. That night, they drink together, but it soon becomes obvious Samantha wants to go to bed alone.

The next morning, Samantha is unable to get on the ferry, since Andrew was robbed of their passports by the local girl with whom he spent the night. Samantha barters her engagement ring for an escort through the infected zone.

Their journey takes them across Mexico by boat and by convoy with armed guards. As they are travelling their car is attacked by the aliens. The guards are all killed, leaving Andrew and Samantha to travel alone. Eventually, they arrive at the large border wall separating the Infected Zone from the United States. As they cross the checkpoint, Andrew and Samantha realize the American border has been evacuated, and the aliens have advanced into the United States.

After walking along an evacuation route, the two stumble across an abandoned gas station. Andrew calls the police and is informed they will be picked up.

Andrew and Samantha phone their families. As they finish their calls, an alien appears at the gas station, but it turns out there are in fact two aliens who are communicating with each other - rather than being monstrous, the giant creatures display tenderness, even beauty.

As they watch them leave, Samantha declares, "I don't want to go home." Andrew and Samantha share a brief kiss, interrupted when the army arrives to pick them up.

As the military convoy arrives, it is revealed that the opening scene shows what happens after Andrew and Samantha are picked up, since the viewer hears the soldier humming Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries".


  • Whitney Able as Samantha Wynden
  • Scoot McNairy as Andrew Kaulder


The film was devised, storyboarded and directed by Gareth Edwards, who also worked as the visual effects artist.[5] Allan Niblo and James Richardson of Vertigo Films work as producers on the production.[6] The filming equipment cost approximately $15,000, with the budget coming in at under $500,000.[7] The film was able to be made on such a low budget due to the use of prosumer cameras to capture digital video rather than the more expensive 35mm film.[8] Any settings featured in the film were real locations often used without permission asked in advance, and the extras were just people who happened to be there at the time.[8][9]

Edwards had the idea for the film while watching some fishermen struggling to haul in their net and imagining a monster. He had the idea to make a monster movie set "years after most other monster movies end, when people aren't running and screaming, but life is going on" and "where a giant, dead sea monster is considered completely normal." He pitched the idea to Vertigo Films, and they asked Edwards to watch a film called In Search of a Midnight Kiss which starred Scoot McNairy and had been made for $15,000. As the chemistry between Edwards's two characters was so important, he wanted a real couple, and luckily McNairy's then-girlfriend (and now wife) Whitney Able is an actress, and joined the project.[10]

The film was shot in Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Texas in the US, over three weeks.[11] For about 90% of the filming the crew comprised seven people transported in one van: Ian Maclagan (sound operator), Jim Spencer (line producer), Verity Oswin the Mexican 'fixer', Edwards, a driver, and Able and McNairy, the stars. As the low-budget production didn't run to a camera dolly, Edwards made do by sticking the camera out of the van window, cushioned on some bundled-up clothing.[10]

As most of the extras were non-actors who were persuaded to be in the film, their action was improvised. "As a result of all this random behaviour, the idea of scripting the film went out of the window. Instead I had a loose paragraph describing the scene with just the main points that had to be hit; how the actors carried this out was left up to them." Each night during the shooting period, the editor Colin Goudie and his assistant Justin Hall would download the day's footage so the memory sticks could be cleared and ready for the next day's filming.[10] While new footage was being captured, the previously captured footage was being edited back at the hotel in which the production team was staying.[8]

Back in the UK, Edwards had over 100 hours of unique, ad-libbed footage (rather than repeated takes of scripted scenes) to edit into a coherent film. Edwards did all the special effects himself using off-the-shelf Adobe software, ZBrush and Autodesk 3ds Max. The first assembly was over four hours long, but this was trimmed to 94 minutes after eight months of editing. Once the film was locked, Edwards had five months to create all 250 visual effects shots, a process he undertook in his bedroom. "[I was] churning out about two shots a day, which was fine until I got to the first creature shot. Then suddenly two months went by and I still hadn't finished a single creature shot; it turned out to be the hardest part of the whole process." Due to time constraints, the sound effects had to be produced before the special effects were undertaken.[10] Edwards claimed that the advances in computer technology in recent years made it possible for him to create the films visual effects on such a low budget; "You can go in the shop now and you can buy a laptop that's faster than the computers they made Jurassic Park on".[8]


Electronic musician Jon Hopkins composed and performed the score of the film.[12]


Monsters premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival, as part of the SX Fantastic screenings, on 13 March 2010.[13] On 17 March, Magnet Releasing acquired the rights for the North American distribution.[14] In May, the film was screened at the Cannes Film Market.[15] Monsters had its UK premiere as part of the 64th Edinburgh International Film Festival, on 18 June 2010.[16] The Los Angeles Film Festival also held two screenings, part of the Summer Showcase, on 23 and 26 June.[17] The film's theatrical release took place in Russia on 30 September, distributed by Volgafilm.[18] Magnolia Pictures released Monsters in US theatres on 29 October 2010.[19] The Canadian theatrical release was on 5 November, after DFilms acquired the rights on 24 May 2010.[20]



Monsters received generally positive reviews from critics, with the film garnering a 71% "fresh", or 7.1/10 rating, on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes with the site's consensus stating, "It doesn't quite live up to its intriguing premise, but Monsters is a surprising blend of alien-invasion tropes, political themes, and relationship drama."[21] Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half out of four stars and said "Monsters holds our attention ever more deeply as we realize it's not a casual exploitation picture."[22] Peter Bradshaw reviewed the film for The Guardian and gave it four stars out of five, described the film as a "terrifically exciting sci-fi movie" and concluded that Edwards "channels the upriver nightmares of Herzog and Coppola, with a strong streak of Spielbergian wonder at the sight of two aliens apparently dancing, or communicating, or having sex".[23] The film ranked #3 on Moviefone's Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of 2010 list.[24] Filmmaker Kevin Smith is a fan of the film, saying on his Podcast Hollywood Babble-On "It will appeal to everything about the child in you that used to like the Four o'clock movie."


Monsters was nominated for six British Independent Film Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor,[25] and eventually won the Best Director, Best Technical Achievement, and Best Achievement in Production awards.[26][27] At the 2011 BAFTAs, Monsters was nominated for Outstanding Debut by a British Director, but ultimately lost to Four Lions.


In the weeks leading up to the UK release date of 3 December 2010 a marketing campaign using social network Foursquare was announced. Vue Entertainment and Cineworld Cinemas set up 'infected locations' which gave users access to exclusive Monsters content and the chance to win random on-the-spot prizes.[28]


  1. ^ a b "Monsters (2010)". Box Office Mojo. 2010-11-21. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  2. ^ Deming, Mark. "Monsters:Overview". Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  3. ^ Ullrich, Chris (2010-03-18). "SXSW Interview: Director Gareth Edwards Talks ‘Monsters’". Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  4. ^ Paul (2010-06-25). "SXSW 2010: MONSTERS Review". Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  5. ^ Zimmerman, Samuel (2010-03-11). "Filmmaker talks SXSW film “Monsters”; exclusive photo". Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  6. ^ "Magnet Releasing Takes U.S. Rights to Monsters". 2010-03-16. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  7. ^ "'Monsters' and Metaphors With Writer-Director Gareth Edwards - MSN Movies News". Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Monsters Best Buy Featurette". 2010-10-10. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  9. ^ Rose, Steve (27 November 2010). "Monsters: the bedroom blockbuster that's the anti-Avatar". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Adventures in the Infected Zone" by Gareth Edwards, Empire November 2010, pages 100–106
  11. ^ Clarke, Cath (23 September 2010). "First sight: Gareth Edwards". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  12. ^ McWeeny, Drew (2010-03-23). "SXSW: 'Monsters' offers up a new view on classic giant monster movies". Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  13. ^ "SX Fantastic Preview: Monsters". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  14. ^ Sauriol, Patrick (2010-03-17). "Magnet has Monsters". Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  15. ^ "Cannes: The Film Market, Monsters, The Housemaid". 2010-05-13. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  16. ^ Solomons, Jason (3 June 2010). "Film Weekly previews Edinburgh and meets the stars of Kicks". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  17. ^ "Monsters Screening Schedule". 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  18. ^ "Monsters world premiere will happen in Russia". 2010-08-18. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  19. ^ "Gareth Edwards' Monsters Come Home for Halloween". 2010-06-30. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  20. ^ "DFilms Acquires MONSTERS". Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  21. ^ "Monsters Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-04-30. 
  22. ^ "Monsters :: :: Reviews". Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  23. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (2 December 2010). "Monsters – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  24. ^ "Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of 2010". Moviefone. 2010-12-28. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  25. ^ "2010 Nominations | The British Independent Film Awards"
  26. ^ The King’s Speech wins 5 British Independent Film Awards. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
  27. ^ "2010 Winners | The British Independent Film Awards"
  28. ^ "Vertigo plans Foursquare promotion for Monsters". 2010-12-01. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 

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