there are monsters dvd

Directed by: Jay Dahl

Starring: Matthew Amyotte, Jason Daley, Guy Germaine

A small group of film students are embarking on their final documentary assignment - a series of interviews with local residents – when they start to notice some strange goings-on. They keep coming across people staring off into the distance, writing strange sentences, while others start claiming that some people aren't who they say they are... are they party to some mass hysteria, or is there something sinister going on?

This could easily be dismissed on paper as a low-budget, Canadian Invasion of the Body Snatchers knock-off. However to do so would be a huge disservice as this is an exemplary example of the genre. And I say that even as the film is guilty of two of the tropes I complain most about!

Things start off normally – the quartet of friends set out to conduct a series of interviews with professional people around the city and neighboring area, including a teacher, a dentist and a bank manager. Slowly they start to cotton onto strange behavior – people standing stock-still, staring off into the distance, people writing strange, broken sentences or wildly claiming that people they know aren’t the same any more. It’s all very innocuous to begin with but by the time they reach a convenience store, things are starting to get really creepy.

When a strange woman knocks on their motel room door late at night, everyone is starting to get very creeped out by the things she’s telling them. But then, her “family” arrive and reassure everyone with some very reasonable answers. At this point you’re left wondering if anything is really going on or whether the students have been dragged into some kind of mass hysteria.

The way this has been filmed is very similar to Operation Avalanche – a semi documentary style, even though it hasn’t been framed as a documentary. Nor is there any context as to how we are seeing the footage in the film - its merely a style choice, not part of the story itself. There are times when this format can get frustrating - there are moments where the screen is completely dark or blurred because the person holding the camera is running, for example. However there are some moments when the close-up camera-work really comes into its own, giving scenes a real sense of immediacy, such as the dentist's office.

The naturalistic acting style of the cast works really well too. They really help to maintain and build the sense of unease throughout the film - when they are freaked, so are we right with them! There is one real standout moment for me, when two of the characters share a moment at the end of the film. The different emotions that play across one of their faces is a masterclass.

The Verdict:

There Are Monsters is a standout horror, no question. Very technically accomplished, brilliantly played. Go check it out.

RECOMMENDED     8 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)