THANKS TO ITS misleading title, Monsters is going to piss off a lot of unsuspecting viewers. Let's be clear: This is not a movie about monsters, nor are there lots of monsters in it. It's the anti-Cloverfield: The camera isn't shaking, and there's almost nothing interesting happening in front of it.
Here's the one-sentence premise: A snotty photographer (Scoot McNairy) is under orders from his newspaper to retrieve the boss' daughter (Whitney Able) from the "Infected Zone"—a decimated, largely abandoned strip of Mexico settled by giant interplanetary octo-crabs after a space probe crashed six years previous.
Now take that one-sentence premise, stretch it over 94 minutes, and subtract pacing, acting, tension, atmosphere, and almost all the monsters. What's left is a film that moves with all the passion and energy of a stifled yawn.
Some will forgive Monsters' many flaws by pointing to its price tag of $15,000. (I didn't leave off a zero or two—this film cost less than a Toyota Prius.) And visually, writer/director Gareth Edwards pulls off a minor miracle; when the octo-crabs eventually do make their scant appearances, they're convincingly Lovecraftian.
But with his script, Edwards doesn't do poor Scoot and Whitney any favors: If you thought the privileged twentysomethings of Cloverfield were annoying wastes, you're going to hate these vapid mannequins. Whenever Edwards' garbage dialogue isn't spilling from their heads, they're hoovering the film's remaining sense of wonder through their slack jaws, trying for "dumbfounded" and only getting the first part.
By the time its end credits roll, Monsters feels like nothing so much as a Blu-ray special feature—one in which we follow a couple of pretty idiots around for a 90-minute look at the sets of a monster movie, one where things will, eventually, actually happen. Now all Edwards needs to do is make a real movie to go along with it.