Tag Archives: aliens

Monsters: Dark Continent

Monsters Dark Continent
Monsters: Dark Continent

Format: Cinema

Release date: 1 May 2015

Distributor: Vertigo Films

Director: Tom Green

Writers: Tom Green, Jay Basu

Cast: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie

UK 2014

123 mins

Gareth Edwards’ 2010 Monsters was a little gem, extracting maximum effect from very minimal resources to deliver an offbeat genre film that was at once a fragile love story and an ambiguous monster movie with much to say about First World/Third World dynamics. A lot of people like it. Tom Green’s sequel pisses that goodwill up the wall with a meat-headed Iraqistan allegory compiled from the Big Book of War Movie Clichés.

Our heroes, who I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to actually like, are a bunch of blue-collar would-be workers from burnt-out Detroit who have little option in life but to join the army, and thus find themselves somewhere in the Middle East, which has become an Infected Zone, just as Mexico was in the first film. This means that massive herds of wandering squid-like beasties are rampaging across the deserts and through the cities. Trouble is, the US army’s attempts to keep the areas quarantined and stop the aliens spreading has resulted in a hell of a lot of collateral damage, an angry population and thus an army of local insurgents intent on repelling the human invaders from their soil. Amidst this mess, our Detroit crew, now christened ‘Team Tiger Shark’, is assigned to veteran Sergeant Noah (Johnny Harris) to rescue a lost platoon.

What follows is a series of scrapes with both the beasties and the locals, wherein Team Tiger Shark get severely whittled down, Noah begins to lose his mind and the remaining grunt (Sam Keeley) goes a little native and realises that maybe bombing the living crap out of people is wrong, that the monsters are occasionally quite pretty, and that Arabs, like, have children too. To be fair, there is a fair amount of visual spectacle, the action sequences are quite well mounted, and the last act is admittedly more interesting than what has preceded it, but honestly, by that time I was past caring.

There are two main problems. One is that, from the moment we meet them, Team Tiger Shark are such a bunch of ‘bro’s before ho’s’, ‘I’ve got your back out there, man’ coke n’ hooker-using macho dick-swinging arseholes that, frankly, couldn’t die fast enough. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t Green’s intention, at least if all the music that kicked in any time one of the pricks got injured is anything to go by.

Problem two is that the monsters of the title have an oddly underwritten, undefined and minimal role to play in their own film. Sure, we see a lot more of them, and beautifully realised they are too. It’s just that, well, you could remove them entirely from the story with very little effect on things. Their part in the narrative could be replaced by sandstorms or unexploded bombs. Surplus to requirements, they are reduced to decoration, as the unremarkable sub-Platoon dynamics take centre stage.

A horribly misjudged, irritating film.

This review is part of our LFF 2014 coverage.

Mark Stafford

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Almost Human

Almost Human
Almost Human

Format: DVD

Release date: 4 August 2014

Distributor: Metrodome

Director: Joe Begos

Writer: Joe Begos

Cast: Graham Skipper, Josh Ethier, Vanessa Leigh

USA 2013

80 mins

Joe Begos’s debut feature Almost Human is an alien invasion splatter film made by a horror fan for horror fans. Right down to the fantastic poster art by Tom Hodge, this is a pure genre project with no desire, or ambition, to find a mainstream audience.

Begos’s potential was spotted when his first short film, Bad Moon Rising, was shown before Adam Green and Joe Lynch’s Chillerama at Frightfest 2011. Almost Human was conceived soon after and shot for the measly budget of $50,000.

The film is set in the 80s – October 15, 1987 flashes up on the first title card – so that’s technology out of the way from the get go. And the aliens are invading from minute one – no slow build here. Seth (played by Graham Skipper) has just seen his friend get sucked up into a beam of light and he’s hurtling along the road at night towards his friends’ house. Naturally, Mark (Josh Ethier) and Jen (Vanessa Leigh) don’t believe him. They argue until a loud ear-piercing noise paralyses them. Mark is drawn outside the house by an otherworldly force. Seth must watch his second friend disappear in a flash of light.

Fast forward two years and Seth is still haunted by that night and now dreams of Mark’s imminent return. All this action is brilliantly crammed into the first 10 minutes. Hunters find Mark, coated in a grey slime, naked in the woods, but he’s not quite the man he was. Their curiosity is met with death. Our anti-hero of the movie is born. Mark marauds through the town trying to piece his old life back together, but people have moved on. Almost everyone who crosses his path meets a cold, gruesome end. It’s old-school buckets of blood rather than CGI after-effects, and Ethier’s performance, for all its simplicity, is great – like a ginger-bearded Arnie from the first Terminator. While people are murdered, the rest of the town get into a froth over Seth’s paranoia and delusions – which mostly only serves to slow, rather than add to, Mark’s unfolding story.

The film is a potpourri of influences: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Fire in the Sky, Alien, anything by John Carpenter (most notably given the subject The Thing) and UK cult classic Xtro. The weight of these horror favourites on Begos’s writing and directorial mind means he never entirely rises above them, although this is no huge crime for a first feature.

For gorehounds attracted to this DVD, the social contract does not demand originality, or complex, emotional character arcs. There’s enough slimy goo, shots to the face, knives in the neck and faces caved in with rocks to keep them entertained and coming back for repeat viewings. Like the opening 10 minutes, the final 10 are a blast as Mark’s true mission and identity come to the fore.

Almost Human played well to audiences at Toronto‘s Midnight Madness, Sitges and Fantastic Fest. These are Legos’s film kin, and if that’s you too, you’ll have a ball watching this with friends over a cold one.

Stuart Wright

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