The low-budget British film Monsters begins with a found-footage/doco style opening of a giant squid-like creature being shot at by the US army. It looks like a film along the same lines of District 9, which is further evoked by its back-story about an alien species that is quarantined along the US/Mexican boarder in what is known as the Infected Zone. Similar to District 9, the treatment of the aliens is symbolic of the way Western governments treat and respond to refugees and illegal immigrants. However, for the majority of the film the aliens are kept in the background. So despite all the initial signs that suggest Monsters will be a science-fiction/thriller, it is actually best described as a melancholic romance film since the majority of the focus is on the growing feelings that the two human protagonists have for each other.
Our two heroes (of sorts) are a bitter and frustrated photojournalist named Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) and his wealthy boss’s daughter Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), whom he is reluctantly looking after. As they travel through the Infected Zone in Central America hoping to make it back into the US they encounter the destruction and devastation done to Mexico as a result of the US military’s actions against the aliens. Their cynicism begins to subside, they stop resenting each other and through shared experiences find themselves drawn to each other. In other words, Monsters follows the narrative structure of the classic screwball comedy/road movie It Happened One Night, even though it is tonally a completely different film
Once you accept that Monsters is a love story set against a sad metaphor for how the US treats outsiders (hint: the film’s title is not referring to the alien creatures), then it can be reasonably enjoyed on the level it was intended to be. The few times the possibility of an encounter with aliens does enter the narrative the film is suitably tense and exciting. While the US military aggression is sometimes too bluntly asserted (the soldiers singing “Ride of the Valkyries” is particularly crude) there are also powerful moments such as when Andrew and Samantha encounter the giant wall that has been built to keep the aliens out. The rather over-the-top ending will either be regarded as ludicrous and cheesy or effectively majestic depending on the extent that you are still prepared to go along with the film.