[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 16 – Monsters: Dark Continent (2014)

Director: Tom Green
Cast: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie, Nicholas Pinnock, Kyle Soller, Parker Sawyers
Screenplay: Jay Basu, Tom Green
119 mins. Rated R for graphic war violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content/nudity and drug use.

I remember the excitement around the original Monsters film, at least around film fans and cinephiles. A big Lovecraftian monster film made on a shoestring budget? So shoestring that the director pretty did most of the visual effects work by himself as well as a number of other duties on the film? This was madness, and it also felt like a passion project rarely seen in major film. It was exciting, and the finished film has its problems, and it’s a mixed bag, but there was a lot of potential, and when I heard that a sequel was coming about, I was intrigued. There was that potential, about to be realized, and for some reason, the sequel came and went without a lot of fanfare. I finally caught up to it this year, and we’re going to break down this disappointment.

Several years after the first film, the alien creatures have also begun appearing in a new Infected Zone in the Middle East. We follow our heroes, a group of friends deployed to the IF for their first tour of duty. As the crew set out on a search and rescue mission, they find themselves engaged against new enemies, both human and otherworldly.

Monsters: Dark Continent is trying to be a monster movie and a war movie. The problem is that its monsters are few and far between, and the war elements are so chock-full of cliché and boring storytelling that it doesn’t really succeed at either. It’s trying to get at social commentary, much like the first film, but it fails in its critique of our involvement in the Middle East, the themes are shoved down our throats, and the plot is full of soulless exposition and a lack of narrative fluidity. We don’t get enough time to know our core group of characters so when they get picked off, one by one, I found myself not caring. Dark Continent struggles with the same issues as most American Kaiju films in that they cannot mine an interesting human story to play off the supernatural one going on all around them. These humans are boring.

The acting isn’t all that particularly strong. Out of the core group of leads, Joe Dempsie (Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, The Damned United) is easily the most engaging, but he has nothing to do. The rest of the cast is rounded out by actors that just seem bored in the movie, or perhaps they don’t know what to do.

The monster sequences are the only element of the film that really works (I would argue that the creature work is as good or better than the original), but there just isn’t any purpose to them. Remove the monster elements of the movie called Monsters: Dark Continent, and the film doesn’t change. It’s still a bore (a way too long bore, coming in just under 2 hours).

Monsters: Dark Continent is a disappointing failure. It’s faults take a potential franchise with a lot of potential value and crash it into the ground. Very little actually works here, which is a shame, as the initial concept is interesting enough for the attempt. There’s just little in terms of entertainment value, and the film’s limited successes can all be found in similar, better movies.

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Gareth Edwards’s Monsters, click here.

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