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Monsters: Dark Continent | Review

This Time, It’s… Bore: Green’s Debut Piggybacks Indie Sci-Fi

Tom Green Monsters: Dark Continent PosterSeeing as the cephalopod shaped extraterrestrials have only managed to move from conquering Mexico in Gareth Edwards’ well received 2010 indie sci-fi Monsters to the arid terrain of an unnamed Middle Eastern country in ten years time to Tom Green’s sequel Monsters: Dark Continent, one wonders just how many installments of these metaphoric, peripheral threats may be in store. Bleeding immediately out into unnecessary territory, its connection to the Edwards’ film may be the launching pad that lends the project relevancy, but this basic marketing ploy is only bound to backfire. Whereas Edwards’ film was a pleasant surprise considering what he was able to accomplish on a limited budget, Green’s follow up may have better special effects but otherwise fails to add anything of note.

With little else to do in their hometown of Detroit, rabble-rousers Michael (Sam Keely), Frankie (Joe Dempsie), and Shaun (Parker Sawyers) enlist to fight a group of encroaching aliens now wreaking havoc in the Middle East. Charged with extracting four soldiers under the command of Sgt. Frater (Johnny Harris), the battalion must face off with creatures, now called MTRs.

Dark Continent plays more like the futuristic follow-up to David Ayer’s Fury than it does Edwards’ original. In fact, beyond maintaining its barely familiar alien creatures (and with original star Scoot McNairy along for the ride as executive producer), this is the sequel treatment in the vein of something like Open Water 2, a film whose only common factor involves humans faced with ocean peril.

Beginning in every American’s favored locale of irreparable urban decay, we bounce around the haunted stillness of Detroit (the backdrop for recent indies like Lost River and It Follows), with our barely serviceable protagonist Michael filling us in easily. “We’ve been running around here like stray dogs since we were kids,” he says of life with his friends, who decide to enlist only because it barely beats dealing crack, leading to a redneck, hotel set bacchanal of slo-mo coke binging and motor boating of prostitutes. Immediately jettisoned from here into deadly combat, it’s hard to feel much for these humans, apparently unable to adapt as fast as the extraterrestrials, generally an omnipresent threat we don’t spend much face time with (making them automatically more desirable than the human characters thinly sketched by Green and screenwriter Jay Basu). The alien evolution, (besides the creatures looking markedly improved from our first encounter with their octopus silhouettes) is evidenced basically during an early sequence wherein a group of thugs pit a dog against a mini-monster, which eventually reveals a new set of tentacles. This is about it as far as thrills go, the rest of the film feeling like a military procedural borrowing a page from Saving Private Ryan.

At a running time of two troublesome hours, Green brings us to a finale that doesn’t manage to say much at all, making Monster: Dark Continent a definite let down for those who appreciated the dog-eared demeanor of its predecessor. Perhaps this would seem slightly less risible if the film was presented as a standalone venture, unfettered by inevitable comparison. And maybe a third installment is necessary, one where these creatures brave finally braved colonizing Anglo-Saxon culture. The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, maybe?


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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