Title: Monsters: Dark Continent
Director: Tom Green
Writers: Tom Green, Jay Basu
Stars: Sam Keeley, Johnny Harris, Joe Dempsie
Release Date: Out now on DVD
Review by: Dave Griffiths
When the original Monsters movie landed in 2010 it set a benchmark for genre film fans everywhere. For too long if you made a monster film you needed a huge budget, an A-List cast and a crazy amount of CGI. But director Gareth Edwards did something very different with Monsters, he somehow managed to make a low budget monster film look like it had cost millions to make, plus it had a creative storyline that genre buffs instantly fell in love with.
However as far as the Monsters franchise goes Gareth Edwards did too much of a good job because now he has been poached to make big budget films like Godzilla and one of the new installments of Star Wars. Even leading man Scoot McNairy is off doing bigger and better things… with those two things in mind you maybe a little wary of the arrival of Monsters: Dark Continent but don’t be because this is a stunning film that once again shows that a monster flick can be something out of the ordinary.
Monsters: Dark Continent is set ten years later than the events of Monsters. The ‘Infected Zone’ has spread right across the world. That of course hasn’t stopped domestic wars and issues arising as well and the U.S. Army soon becomes worried about the rise of insurgents in The Middle East, so despite some increased alien-monster activity in the area they decide to send more troops into the area.
One of those troops is Michael Parkes (Sam Keeley – This Must Be The Place) your typically young American who after a few days of partying finds himself and his friends, including Frankie Maguire (Jon Dempsie – Game Of Thrones) in The Middle East, somewhat unprepared for what they are about to face. Nevertheless their Commanding Officers Forrest (Nicholas Pinnock – Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Frater (Johnny Harris – Snow White & The Huntsmen) try to whip them into shape, but soon it becomes apparent that nothing can prepare for them for the bloodbath that is the desert. Things only become worse when an attack on their convey leave most of the group dead.
There is no filmmaker alive that would have envied Tom Green being handed the directional rights to Monsters: Dark Continent. Here you have a first time feature director who only has two short films and two televisions shows on his Resume suddenly in charge of a film that is part of a franchise that has a very passionate following. But the good news is that Green overcomes all the obstacles put in front of him and he has created a fantastic film that may just provide him with a similar career path to his predecessor, Gareth Edwards.
What Green does with Monsters: Dark Continent is nothing short of spectacular. Somehow he manages to mix the monster film genre together with the war genre in a way that we have never seen before. What results is a film that resembles Black Hawk Down with aliens thrown in as well.
The screenplay which Green gets to work with (which he also co-wrote) is part of the reason that Monsters: Dark Continent works so well. From the get go this film feels as natural as all hell. The scenes of the boys partying at the start almost feel like you are watching lost footage and then the intensity of the film raises ten fold when the troops hit the Middle East. Somehow Green manages to integrate the enemy and the aliens here really, really well.
Now of course there are some fanboys who are pretty disappointed that somehow a monster film and war film have come together to create a hybrid, but really what needs to be looked at here are the positives. The infusion of two enemies for the soldiers raises the stakes and suspense immensely and the fact that Green messes with the audience by having the audience seemingly come attack by aliens only then to run into insurgents as well early on. In that moment you realise that this is truly a war/monster film and you are never really sure where the next attack comes from or who is going to die next… it’s at that point you know you have a great film at hand.
The other main thing that stands out about Monsters: Dark Continent is the fact that even though the film’s cast is pretty much made up of a bunch of no-names somehow they all come together and deliver some of the best acting performances of this year. It takes a special kind of actor to put in such natural performances that it feels like you are watching a docco and here Sam Keely, Johnny Harris and Joe Dempsie manage to do it remarkably well. Sadly the fact that they manage to produce these performances in a genre flick will mean they are never properly rewarded for their efforts.
If you a fan of good cinema then you are going to love Monsters: Dark Continent. It is one of the best war films to surface since Zero Dark Thirty and manages to make some strong comments on the United States’ war efforts overseas while also managing to bring alien-monsters into the storyline as well. The film also makes a point of looking at whether or not it is possible to live in harmony with the ‘monsters’ which could make for an interesting third outing in this series if they go ahead with it. Genre film buffs rejoice because Monsters: Dark Continent shows that a hybrid between the war and monster genres has produced a very special beast indeed.