Review: Monsters:Dark Continent

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An overall annoying film. Firstly, an unnecessary follow-up to Gareth Edwards’ under the radar success, that subtly suggested we are ourselves the monsters, trampling over our fragile eco-system, and laying waste with weapons of war, the space creatures meanwhile, a serene, bizarre presence far less destructive than our own. Here, that point is hammered home with a sledgehammer by director  Tom Green (TVs Misfits) and writer Jay Basu. Gareth Edwards took an Executive Producer credit. A teeth grindingly crude 20 minutes or so preface lays out our soldiers pre-tour story in a ravaged Detroit (with a really nasty dog / Monster infant fight watched by a baying mob), before deployment to another infected zone, this time in the middle east. The US has been bombing the “Monsters” (presumably to keep them away from oil pipelines) but the locals resent the wholesale destruction to their locality, quite reasonably. So our “heroes” are also fighting insurgents.

What we have is a kind of nasty bit of war porn with faceless arabs brutalising the troops, before a slow burn awakening of our two remaining men – one, their hard-ass sergeant (Johnny Harris, sporting a beard and shaven head to rival any in American Sniper), to the true horror of war, (himself), the other (Misfits‘ Sam Keely), that he needs to get out of “the shit”. Around the half way mark is a pretty remarkable and beautifully shot (and scored) desert encampment sequence, where the hero (and an arab girl) are privileged to watch a nightime Monster “light show” a bit like the monster mating ritual at the gas station in the first film. The two survivors riding silently across a shimmering desert plain recalls The Motorcycle Diaries.

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Peppered throughout are some strong performances, and an impressive score and astounding sound design, that thunders through your chest. The crude sound, score and nasty, poverty-blasted Detroit opening, contrast with the more sombre second half, as if to suggest the awakening conscience of the hero. A wider variety of monsters are on show this time – the scenes of buffalo-like creatures thundering alongside our troops convoy, and an insect-like creature kept by an arab boy in a tin can, rearing aloft on wings before burrowing into the sand, are welcome distractions and a sense of wonder set apart from the rote war cliches. War is hell, it seems to say, and war, whether against a strange alien hostile infection, or fellow pissed-off humans, is  turning our world into a hell-hole.

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