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July 28, 2015

Monsters: Dark Continent

by Franz Patrick


Monsters: Dark Continent (2014)
★ / ★★★★

Wanting to make something of their lives, Mike (Sam Keleey) and his friends sign up for the military to be deployed in the Middle East where insurgents and giant extraterrestrials reside. Twelve weeks into their first tour, the team receives a seemingly straightforward mission in which they are to rescue four soldiers. Everything starts to go wrong, however, when their convoy hits a bomb, instantly killing members of the team, and insurgents send a rain of bullets and rocket-propelled grenades.

“Monsters: Dark Continent,” written by Tom Green and Jay Basu, is essentially three pictures put into a blender without any additional flavor added to it. What results is a confusing, misleading, bland miscalculation; it is standard a war picture one minute, a would-be thoughtful rumination about the horrors of war the next, and then just as suddenly it turns into a fight against aliens. Little connective tissue is shared among the strands and so the film is almost unbearable to sit through.

An early mistake is the failure to establish one perspective that we will follow and eventually sympathize with. Perhaps the most interesting character is Sergeant Frater (Johnny Harris), having done seven tours in the Middle East and is increasingly worried that his daughter back home no longer recognizes him. Instead, the writers divide the film’s time between Mike and Frater, but the former is so boring that even when he is showing rage, frustration or regret, I felt no connection to his plight. It is a stark contrast against Frater. The sergeant can just sit still and his eyes reveal it all.

The massive aliens remain in the background throughout which is unforgivable. We see giant tentacles writhing in the desert as they are being shot but we learn nothing new or exciting about them. Why are they releasing spores? Why are the baby aliens burying themselves in the desert sand? I think the most exciting bit involves a fight between a dog and an alien about the size of a hog—which happens very early in the movie. There is not enough alien interest generated for those hoping to see these creatures in action.

It peaks too early. It can be argued that the climax of the picture is when Mike’s friends begin to meet their respective deaths. There are a lot of manly screaming, crying, blood, and missing limbs, but it all comes across as fake because we learn close to nothing about the young men. For instance, during the narration in the beginning, Mike claims that Frankie (Joe Dempsie) is his best friend. Not once do we ever feel the emotions behind that claim during their interactions in the field.

Directed by Tom Green, “Monsters: Dark Continent” is neither about the humans nor the aliens that the title promises. In the end, it becomes about the filmmakers’ mediocrity, their inability to construct and execute a two-hour story that is worth telling. It is another one of those terrible movies where I would like to sit down with the filmmakers and ask them personally what they were thinking while creating this disappointment.

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