BFI London Film Festival 2014: Monsters: Dark Continent

by Daniel Goodwin on 14/10/2014


Gareth Edward’s Monsters (2010) was an evocative delve into a beast-ravaged land, focusing mainly on a young couple and their evolving relationship while the magnificent creatures lurked in the background. The overall effect was rather striking and this sequel takes a similar approach but is massively hindered by a badly paced, skeletal plot and appalling characters.

From the opening husky hero voiceover, recounting in “war is hell” mode, we’re in well-charted terrain. First time director Tom Green presents a trying, handheld style that disorientates and does little to effectively convey suspense or excitement due to its overuse in films like The Hurt Locker (2008), Green Zone (2010), Redacted (2007) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012). Meanwhile close-ups of eyeballs and jittering, bearded jaws during suspense scenes prove irritating along with dull, badly framed wide shots.

Director Green, along with co-writer Jay Basu, present their protagonists as an army of kill hungry meatheads sent to man the monster zone and seek out insurgents while bothering locals, getting drunk and fraternising with strippers. What distinctive characteristics they have, aside from the stereotypical soldier staples, are not effectively woven or combined with conflicting nuances and context to make them even remotely interesting or likeable.

Perceiving the team as the real monsters, while the dazzling yet mostly harmless beasts occupy the backdrop, is an interesting attribute but not one that prevails or bears much relevance to the viewer. A scene featuring a horde of poultry and horse cross breeds galloping across the desert with the appearance of plucked, mutant turkeys is fun but again far from breath-taking.

A sequence featuring a smaller monster scuffing with a fighting dog to a backdrop of goading gamblers is amusing but morally questionable as are the horrendously sexist characters in combat.  Another scene shows a deplorable operative suffocating a wounded child in attempt to put him out of his misery which is disturbing and totally tasteless.

The performances are decent and editing impressive but the directing and screenplay are so bad it is impossible to engage with what there is of a story. Monsters: Dark Continent is ultimately nothing more than a laborious endurance test. Painful on the eye and brain and incredibly dull and offensive as a work of art, a piece of entertainment and a political allegory.

Daniel has awarded Monsters: Dark Continent one Torch of Truth


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