Director: Tom Green
Writers: Tom Green, Jay Basu
Stars: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie
Monsters: Dark Continent got a bit of a pasting when it was released; inevitable, really, considering that it was a sequel to a film which both critics and audiences had taken an unexpected shine to. Some commentators drew up the comparisons with Aliens, which also followed up a relatively intimate story with a more bombastic, militaristic plot. And there’s an element of truth to that, but just an element: the key difference is that whereas Aliens was a celebration of tough dudes with big guns, Monsters: Dark Continent has a much more European sensibility. The war against the titular creatures isn’t something that’s depicted as being particularly worthy, in fact – with memories of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are to the fore – it seems like a monumental waste of time, expense and human life.
The key thing to note here is that, as in the first film, the monsters are actually rather peripheral, despite occupying an ‘infected zone’ which includes much of the Middle East. The plot follows a selection of American kids who are sent to take part in the clean up process, anxious to escape their dead-end lives and enthused by the prospect of kicking some alien butt. But they discover that the greatest danger actually comes from the locals, a mixture of insurgents and innocents who don’t seem to have been greatly inconvenienced by the presence of some ruddy great big extraterrestrials roaming around the desert; in fact they are rather more pissed off with the fact that they keep on being blown up by the ‘liberating’ forces.
In effect, this is a war movie as much as a science fiction film, continuing in much the same vein as other post-Iraq, post-Libya productions such as Kajaki and The Patrol. It’s different to its predecessor – it’s faster paced and less cerebral – but that doesn’t mean that it’s not as intelligent, in fact this is one of a wave of recent post-colonial horror films (see also Darkest Day, The Dead and The Dead 2: India) which make just as pertinent a comment on the tense relationship between the west and the developing world as more respectable and acclaimed productions. The performances are committed (especially Johnny Harris as the experienced Sergeant Frater), the depiction of the monsters in all their life stages is interesting and the visuals are frequently arresting.