By now if you are a film lover or a well heeled sophisticated urbanite you know about the Jameson Cult Film Club and their pop up cult film screenings in unique or unusual locations near you.
With the demise of government backed initiatives like the UKFC corporate sponsorship of film is shaping up to be key in increasing awareness of good film. Nowhere can this be seen more than with Jameson led film ventures. Not only do they promote the love of good film with the Jameson Cult Film Club season of screenings but they also sponsor The Film Independent Spirit Awards, The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival as well as the prestigious Jameson Empire Awards.
So when I heard the Jameson Cult Film Club were going to be screening MONSTERS. I was really looking forward to the night not only do Jameson push the boat out and put on a good night but Gareth Edwards’ gentle masterpiece MONSTERS is a particular favourite of mine.
Hopefully you have heard of MONSTERS Gareth Edwards’ post modern take on life after an alien invasion - as Jameson rightly point out with its JCFC screening it’s a future cult classic. If not, hopefully this blog post may take you some of the way to acquaint you with it.
Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.
So a couple of Thursdays ago I made my way into the fresh London night to the Royal College of Surgeons for the JCFC screening of MONSTERS, unlike the brilliant screening of Taxi Driver when it took me a little while to figure out - I immediately understood exactly why The Royal College of Surgeons was chosen to screen MONSTERS as the RCS houses The Hunterian Museum which quite frankly has to be seen to be believed. It has some ghoulish and outlandish specimens on display that are a good match for alien life forms.
Strolling along the queue to get into the screening which stretched around the substantial block. I realised that this must surely have been the biggest Jameson Cult Film Club screening yet. I later found out that there would in fact be 2 screening rooms simultaneously showing MONSTERS.
Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Enter the Infected Zone, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler. Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Infected Zone checkpoint, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.
Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Enter the Infected Zone, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.
Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Enter the Infected Zone, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.
The Director – Gareth Edwards
Then the highlight of the evening for me as we are then escorted upstairs by the JCFC team to the Hunterian Museum for an informal chat with none other than Director of MONSTERS Mr. Gareth Edwards himself.
Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Director Gareth Edwards just before the screening, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.
Gareth is surprisingly open about his growth from made for TV historical documentaries to fully fledged features director, if you have seen any of his training videos wherein he makes incredibly difficult compositing shots look as easy as sending an email you’ll know what I mean.
Despite being super talented, starting out Gareth had many set-backs and was turned down a number of times, fortunately a friend mentioned him as a possible candidate for a role which led to him taking on multiple roles, doing both Visual Effects and Directing so that he could take on more responsibility, move up, and follow his dream of making films. It was inspiring listening to Gareth talking of how he chased his dream.
In and amongst the other banter I managed to ask Gareth what the steps for him were from winning the 2008 SCI-FI-LONDON 48Hour Film Challenge to pitching his MONSTERS post alien invasion concept to Vertigo to what we see realised on screen. Gareth let me know that the reality was that he actually pitched a couple of ideas to Vertigo and his favourite idea was actually canned, MONSTERS was one of the back up ideas which Vertigo helped him develop. Naturally this leads straight into what was his original concept? Unfortunately I missed the boat on that one but hopefully we may have a follow up chat with Gareth picking up where we left off.
Finally I also managed to ask Gareth about his upcoming re-invention of Godzilla. Unfortunately he could not be as forthcoming about Godzilla as it is still in crucial early stages of development. But “off the record” did tell us just enough to raise our excitement levels. And with that our time with Gareth Edwards came to an end.
We made our way back downstairs to join the capacity audience of hip young urbanites in full swing for another pre-screening cocktail in the bar. The bar has been turned into a jungle complete with Haz Mat suited border patrol and South American jungle rebels. Overhead we hear jets fly by interrupting the ambient beats of Jon Hopkins’ dulcet and haunting MONSTERS soundtrack.
Jon Hopkins - Monsters Theme by Jon Hopkins
Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Inside the Safe Zone, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler. Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Heading into the cinema, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Enter the Infected Zone, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Enter the Infected Zone, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.
Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - MONSTERS Director Gareth Edwards, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Chris Hewitt hosts a QA and introduction to MONSTERS with Director Gareth Edwards and Editor Colin Goudie, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - JCFC Air Filters. Nice Touch. A collectible take away, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - In the cinema, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.
The Film – MONSTERS a review
I was lucky enough to catch MONSTERS at it’s UK “Premiere” screening at FrightFest 2010. I knew enough about it at the time, that despite its title – I was not to expect a film about MONSTERS. But sitting there in the Empire Theatre, my favourite cinema with it’s more than ample projection unit and sound system during FrightFest - I could not help but expect very big MONSTERS, destruction, mayhem, guns, explosions, a hero to rise and at the end of it all a sunset or at least the door for a sequel to be opened.
Sure there are very big MONSTERS, destruction, mayhem, guns, explosions and all sorts of bad assery – but that’s not what MONSTERS is about. And although I enjoyed MONSTERS for it’s anti cliché stance. I’m very appreciative for the second viewing to see MONSTERS without those preconceptions and to view it as it should be seen.
Six years ago NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A probe was launched to collect samples, but crashed upon re-entry over Central America. Soon after, new life forms began to appear and grow. In an effort to stem the destruction that resulted, half of Mexico was quarantined as an INFECTED ZONE.
Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain the massive creatures... Our story begins when a jaded US journalist (Scott McNairy) begrudgingly agrees to find his boss’ daughter, a shaken American tourist (Whitney Able) and escort her through the infected zone to the safety of the US border.
MONSTERS takes us to Mexico where Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) a roving photographer is tasked with making sure his employees daughter Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) makes it home safely after she is caught up in the wake of destruction left by the aliens.
After some bad turns that results in Samantha missing the last ferry of the season back to the USA, the couple are forced to make their way through the walled off Infected Zone on their way back to the safety of the relative safety of the USA. Before the Aliens make their destructive way through Mexico on their annual migratory path.
The magic of MONSTERS is not the aliens or the visual effects that makes them believable but like all good films it’s about the journey. It’s about two individuals who have to make their way across an unknown land, getting to know themselves, each other and a new world fraught with danger and beauty.
Pretty soon I was swept away on their subtle emotional trip as they navigate the treacherous but beautiful landscapes, engage with the locals and we learn about the aliens as a life form rather than a malicious enemy hell bent on world domination and enslaving the human race with superior technological firepower.
The dynamics of the relationship between Samantha and Kaulder are key as most of the film is lived through them and real life couple; Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able bring a lot of credibility and chemistry to the onscreen relationship. On one level MONSTERS is a road trip that harkens back to the simplicity of a bygone era, shot in very contemporary style but on another level it’s about the walls we build between ourselves.
Gareth Edwards create the right atmosphere for a fish out of water story and using hand held cameras, barely noticeable but effective special effects and a wonderful soundtrack to accompany the subtle visuals it feels like you are a stranger in a strange land discovering the journey as the characters do.
MONSTERS is a subtle and beautiful film I’m really grateful that I got a chance to experience it a second time and discover the hidden nuance and intelligence I overlooked the first time while trying to absorb it all in one viewing.
If we were chatting and you asked me what it is about I would say something to the effect that MONSTERS is about humanity. A theme that runs through all great Science Fiction stories.
You can read The Guardian online editor Catherine Shoard’s review of MONSTERS over here on the JCFC website .
Post Film – Discussion
After the MONSTERS we headed back into the bar/Jungle to chat about what we had just seen. First time viewer’s reactions varied from; a stance very similar to mine after my first screening - to loving it off the bat. I managed to catch up with Editor Colin Goudie take a closer look at one of the Gas Masks he had with him, one of the same make as used in MONSTERS as well as discuss the slow burn effect of the film and how it was better for me on my second viewing.
Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - MONSTERS Editor Colin Goudie, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.
Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - One of the gas masks used in MONSTERS, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler. Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Jameson Medication Dispensers, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler. Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - Post screening discussion, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler. Jameson Cult Film Club Presents : MONSTERS - The after party, originally uploaded by Craig Grobler.
We stayed in the bar area for a while longer listening to the music (the DJ teased us with tracks from Vangelis' Bladerunner soundtrack, I'm just saying), discussing MONSTERS, Gareth Edwards, cult film, what a great night we were having, previous screenings and what the JCFC might have planned for us at the next Jameson Cult Film Club screening.
If you are up in Manchester and want to get in on a piece of the Jameson Cult Film Club sign up for free tickets to the JCFC screening of Control on Thursday 17 March over at http://jamesoncultfilmclub.com/boxoffice/
MONSTERS will be available to buy or rent on DVD & Blu-Ray from Monday 11 April, 2011