13 November 2010


If writing and story and even directing aren’t Edwards’s strongest suits, his intuition and audacity as a producer is. Of the plethora of despicable filmmakers peddling their despicable $15,000 films (which, until seeing “Monsters” I had written off as either practically implausible or ethically irresponsible), Gareth Edwards stands head and shoulders above. “Monsters” takes the extreme micro-budget film out of the province of gimmick. For a film of such production value, it sports only two starring actors, supported by local Latino non-actors and amateurs.  Edwards and his sound recordist were the only on-location crew.  The four of them shot more or less alone for three weeks at real locations—in jungles, in villages, atop Mesoamerican pyramids.  And unlike many of the other micro-budget charlatans, “Monsters” is a true independent film produced on a small advance from a small but dedicated studio and sold by specialty distributors. The circumstances of its production harken back to the New York Independent mode of the early nineties—without the support of the stock market boom.  In this way, “Monsters” is anything but Hollywood fodder, like “Paranormal Activity” (2009), or amateur hour, like “Breaking Upwards” (2009).  Unlike both these films, and the others they typify, Edwards made the film he knew he could make well, without compromise, and with integrity.  That in itself should earn the respect of any post-millennial filmmaker. “Monsters” is a success in spite of itself because Edwards made a few crucially important production decisions and stuck to them: to write a film he knew he could produce properly, to trust the drama to his actors and cast actors he could trust, to shoot on location and pull the most value from each location, to shoot with the edit in mind and adapt the mode of production according to the aesthetic of the film. On the other hand, hiring an editor probably saved the movie and might easily have been the most expensive addition to the original $15,000 budget.

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