This sci-fi movie cleans up well in hi-def, despite its distinctly low-fi origins

Monsters is in many ways a remarkable film. Shot entirely on location for less than £500,000 with a tiny crew, two unknown actors and visual effects knocked up by writer/director/cinematographer/etc. Gareth Edwards on his home computer, Monsters is a testament to just what it’s possible for a filmmaker to do with such limited resources these days. However, Monsters is also notable for the way it was knowingly mis-sold to audiences, with promises of epic sci-fi spectacle rather than the road-movie-cum-immigration-allegory it actually delivered. On its own terms Monsters is a success, but it’s one that audiences expecting more traditional sci-fi thrills may find difficult to engage with.

Pictures: Considering that it was shot on the hoof in actual locations across Central America using a single Sony EX3 prosumer camera and minimal additional lighting, Monsters actually looks pretty good on Blu-ray. The VC-1-encoded 2.40:1 1080p image is – understandably – at its best during daylight scenes, revealing plenty of fine detail in facial close-ups and vivid colour reproduction across the board. Where it comes a bit of a cropper is during night scenes, which are riddled with noise. But it’s worth noting that this is down to the source material (and lack of additional lighting during night shoots) rather than being a flaw in the Blu-ray encode itself.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: Monsters’ original 5.1-channel soundmix was given a 7.1 overhaul for the US Blu-ray release – but, in all honesty, it added very little to the experience as this isn’t the kind of film that delivers a particularly aggressive audio experience. As such, the fact that the UK disc goes back to the original sound design with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track isn’t really a problem. Although there are a handful of extremely dynamic scenes (such as the opening), the track’s biggest success is surrounding you with atmospherics, be it the bustling streets during the Day of the Dead celebrations or the sound of wildlife (both native and extraterrestrial) in the Infected Zone.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: Monsters arrives on Blu-ray with an informative collection of extras that do a fine job of exploring how the film was put together for so little money. Director Gareth Edwards is joined by actors Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able for an amiable chat-track that acts as the perfect compliment to the excellent 55min behind-the-scenes documentary also included on the disc. There’s also a couple of informative featurettes about editing the film and its much-discussed visual effects, plus the trailer and Edwards’ 2008 sci-fi short Factory Farmed – the latter of which appears to be exclusive to this UK release. It’s just a shame that it misses out on the additional interviews with the filmmaker and his leads that appeared on the US disc.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: Gareth Edward’s low-fi sci-fi flick makes a surprisingly good impression in high-definition

Vertigo Films, Region B BD, £20 approx, On sale