(For another take on this film, click here)
After more than a year since we last spent time together I find myself drawn to you on a late night movie search. After the initial ‘what the hell’ impulse, I ponder the fact that since I have seen you last the monster world has been very busy. In that same year I have seen Skyline, Splice, Battle: Los Angeles, Super 8 and Cowboys & Aliens. Not to mention the thought of Cloverfield, which, say what you will, rounds out a pretty diverse collection of baddies portrayed in some really great movies. I recall liking you before but wonder how well you have held up in the interim.
As the tale begins I do recall that you were a shoestring production that did what it did with less than a million in the budget. Point one in your favor. As we meet the young photographer and his equally young charge, who are trying to get through the infected zone from deep in Mexico to the US, I am struck with the pleasant déjà vu from before, where the opportunity filmmaking and economical storyline paints an instant, visceral, and vivid swath of teeming south of the border war zone living. Though this time it isn’t a human foe and our protagonist Andrew is trying to get in to make his fame and fortune while his boss is ordering him to get his daughter out so he can keep the said job that leads him to that fame and fortune.
As that chain of events leaves them high and dry as the last ferry leaves the coast, her engagement ring gets them up river and overland assistance which, as you can imagine, isn’t ideal or safe. As their bond grows I hit high point number 2, the utter convincing nature of the locals mercenary attitude toward helping the Americans. Money talks and all that. Part of that second realization is how adeptly the filmmaker keeps the monsters on the periphery but as a looming menace at every turn. It is truly a masterful stroke for a film to remind us of our puny existence, create ironclad believability, while at the same time showing that this showdown isn’t about invasion but more about survivability and who is left standing at the end. This intrinsic perspective to the hard fought battle between species bent on survival is rarely portrayed well in movies, let alone done with a deft enough touch to hint at the potential apocalyptic outcome in the future without beating you over the head with it.
This film accomplishes the nuance admirably and when you see the squeaky wheel scene with the crazy lady you will understand what I mean.
As we have our finale at the gas station alarmingly far into the US from the border, we find out how alien ‘alien’ can be and how some things such as connection and communication can actually be very much the same no matter what the species. It’s a subtle comparison that many may miss but it is the third stroke of brilliance that, in my mind, makes this little project the low budget benchmark for others to emulate and the kind of strange but good monster film Cloverfield wished it could have been!
I shake your hand whole heartedly … Well met again sir!