Alien creatures mixed with immigration and third world-first world conflicts?  Why not?  Set in an alternate near-future, Monsters is a road trip turned social commentary.

Six years ago, a probe carrying samples of alien life crashed in Central America.  Soon after, horrific alien creatures (somewhat like giant insects with tentacles) began to appear, and roughly the upper half of Mexico was quarantined as the "Infected Zone," with the U.S. and Mexican armies fighting the creatures.

Andrew Kaulder (Scott McNairy) is a photographer, taking pictures of the creatures and their victims in South America, when he gets an unwanted assignment: Escort Sam Wynden (Whitney Able), his boss' daughter, back to America.  At first all they have to do is get to the coast, where she'll get on a ferry that goes straight to America.  But when their passports are stolen, they have to take a more expensive and dangerous trek, by car, boat, and foot, through the Infected Zone.

Monsters has its strengths and weaknesses.  The main characters are a nice balance: Andrew has been down there a long times and knows the culture, but he never learned any Spanish; Sam is the rich tourist, but she knows the language and does most of their talking.  The immigration parallels are obvious, sometimes painfully: There's a giant wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and people with passports have a much easier, safer, and cheaper route to the U.S. than those who are undocumented.  And the movie wisely gives hints of the creatures rather than throwing them on-screen all the time, giving up glimpses of them moving, or their remains.  And there's a surprising moment beauty at the film's end.

That said, Andrew and Sam aren't terribly compelling characters.  Using the darkness to hide the monsters works fine at first, but after a while the movie feels like it's spending half the time in the gloom and obscurity of night.  And there are times when the movie meanders, bringing boredom into the mix.

Monsters is an interesting movie: Not a great movie, but different and more thoughtful than other movies with aliens and, well, monsters.  (And the newer dvd edition has a massive amount of behind-the-scenes extras; the second disc is devoted solely to them.)

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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