Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Here Be Monsters. And Whiskey

In hot, sweaty, sticky Mexico, two gringos are desperately trying to do whatever it takes to get back to the USA, away from the alien spores and fearsome tentacles of Gareth Edwards’ Monsters. In stark contrast, last Thursday saw a large queue of freezing Londoners waiting eagerly in the cold outside The Royal College of Surgeons for Jameson Cult Film Club’s presentation of Edwards’ impressive story of survival and burgeoning love amongst the extra-terrestrials.

Inside and upstairs within the Hunterian Museum, the horror was unleashed early amongst an astonishing array of glass cases containing necrotic penises, monkey skulls, and jars of mutated internal organs. Sipping Jameson’s cocktails, it occurred to me that the collection wouldn’t look out of place on the catering truck for I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!

Fortified by whiskey, I returned to the main body of the building accompanied by the sounds of thropping helicopter rotors, eerie screeches and warning signals, guided through the crowds by people wearing gas masks and hazmat suits. The architecture of the 200-year old Royal College of Surgeons faded into the background. We were now quarantined on the outskirts of the Infected Zone.

Before the film began, Gareth Edwards and editor Colin Goudie took to the stage to introduce the film. Lubricated by free cocktails, Edwards was genuinely thrilled at the full-to-capacity turn-out for the screening and he felt compelled to warn us that, in his experience, usually a third of an audience end up hating the film. He made it clear that if you were expecting lots of monsters in Monsters, you were going to be disappointed.

Edwards and Goudie reeled off a list of their influences and reference points to prime us for the experience, including Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michael Winterbottom’s In This World and Lost in Translation. Goudie asked us to imagine Bill Murray sitting in his Tokyo hotel room, when all of a sudden Godzilla passes by his window. Which is to say that Monsters is not a monster movie. It’s a road movie / love story. With monsters.

Edwards hews to the old maxim that Less is More and he pointed out that, in Jaws, the shark is only visible for a total of three seconds within the first hour. Made with a $500,000 budget, a five-man crew, two actors and no script, with all of the special effects added in post-production using Adobe After Effects, Monsters is an incredible achievement.

(And, for the record, Gareth Edwards can’t talk about his forthcoming Godzilla project, no matter how much Jameson’s you ply him with.)

Massive thanks to the fine folk at Jameson Cult Film Club for a terrific evening. Can’t wait to see what else they’ve got planned for the rest of 2011. Monsters is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from 11 April.

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