I have to be honest, looking at the poster for monster, it looks very generic. You can’t necessarily tell that this is trying to piggyback off of Cloverfield, but within moments of the film starting… The shaky cam really tells you everything you need to know.
After a brief flash of chaos, we get two women packing for a trip to Japan… Hot but professional is what they’re going for. They’re padding this intro with it not just getting to know you stuff but airport footage and getting to know the city bits as well. Wandering through Tokyo.
They’re doing a video or documentary or a news article or some sort… But in the middle of a interview, we start to hear sirens outside the building. Then the walks Shake. There are explosions outside! We got to get out of there!
We get Dim and strobing shaky cam in stairwells and hallways as they trying to get out of the building. It’s no good, they get trapped in the basement. Then they make their way out. Then they get trapped in a cave or a sewer… At one point they were on top of a roof…
I wish I could give you a more detailed synopsis. The problem is, that’s all this is. We have a sort of small scale road movie… Only the road is the sidewalk. It’s them trying to get to the American Center or the American Embassy, which ever one they can reach first. The trip is punctuated by monster attacks or the repercussions of those attacks… Falling buildings, Caved in floors, general mayhem. Of course once they finally do make it to the American Embassy, it’s destroyed.
Is there any hope of getting home? I’d say not. The film ends abruptly, with no real climax and resolution. We just cut the black at the end of the scene and get the epilogue – white text on a black screen about the two girls that were being found. This video is all that survived, it was posted by their father, yada yada yada.
The real problem with monster, is the lack of story. It feels like somebody went out to see Cloverfield, and thought “I can do that!“. The big difference is, Cloverfield had a well thought out plot… And several storylines going on at once. The monster attack was really the background, the “C” storyline if that. The “A” storyline is of course them trying to escape and survive, but the “B” storyline is this weird unrequited love story and how do you come back to being friends after sleeping together. It’s tense in a bit self, with the threat of those feelings never getting resolved to due to the current crisis… All of that works together to create a compelling narrative with characters that you genuinely care about.
In Monster, I don’t know these girls. We get a couple of pauses in the running to have long monologues about wanting to go home, and I miss my sister, and will you turn that camera off! Never do I really feel like I know or care about these people. They’re just avatars in a video game. They’re just pretty faces drifting from scene to scene.
The other thing that Cloverfield really had going for it, was an interesting monster. Interesting in that it was incomprehensible, and even at that big reveal towards the end, I never entirely was able to grasp what this thing properly looked like. The titular monster of this Asylum film, we never see it. We occasionally spy tentacles erupting from the ground or crawling around the building. We see them slapping to the pavement, opening up great gaps. We see them hit buildings to try and collapse them. We constantly see fighter jets in the air, on their way to attack it and explosions in the distance. But we never see this monster. That tentacle wrapping around a building on the cover? That’s about all you’ll see, and the clearest picture of it that you’ll get. Ultimately that makes for a disappointment.
The entire thing actually, is a bit of a disappointment. It’s just something to eat up time, and the real shame of it is I could see them pulling a good movie out of the story. They just need some extra planning and perhaps a script rather than a lot of ad-libbed screaming. The idea of seeing a Kaiju invasion from the ground level, it’s still compelling enough to stand the test of time, provided you give us people that we want to struggle through the apocalypse with.
Sadly this isn’t that.