Monsters: Dark Continent Bu-ray Review

Dark Continent is sharper, more aware, and relevant than its predecessor

In the face of alien invasion, there is still a Middle Eastern war to fight. The time of awe over the invasive species has past. Humans are back to being human. How depressing.

Monsters: Dark Continent sneers at the idea of conflict. It is a passively observant, liberal anti-war film caught in an overly masculine and prejudiced conflict. “You do not get to feel,” belts the seven tour veteran (Johnny Harris) to his rookie squadmate (Sam Keeley). Sympathy is a mental cut off point and Monsters is disgusted by the realization.

At first, Dark Continent is a gruff combat film. The soldiers are unlikable archetypes from inner city Detroit. Cocaine, booze, women; the length of their pleasures is to a point of being hokey. This movie is too long. Such uselessly exaggerated party scenes do not help.

Shipped off to Afghanistan or Iraq or Iran – the importance of the location is minimal – this (initially) energized group of soldiers fends off their international opposition as often as they do roving, house-sized beings. These interstellar creatures breed here, in the deserts of the Middle East. On sight, they’re bombed, a form of population control enacted by background policies. One can hear politicians mouthing off and swaying public opinion over safety concerns.

The monsters are but a catalyst in an irregular science fiction story. There’s the point: Everyone is so pre-occupied with killing one another – the Arabic populace fighting for the death toll caused by the bombings; the Americans for the retaliation – no one appears to see the wonder or the sorrow. The monsters emote. Directly, the beings only appear instinctively curious. Never once do they kill. They die because they’re in the way of stopping terrorism, which in turn only exists due to their death. The real world cycle as visually portrayed is tragic.

Script work is smarter than any direct-to-video sequel to an independent monster film should be.

Dark Continent is in motion, shifting from knowingly tired jingoism into war justification and then revolt. It’s crowded, but that’s okay. Script work is smarter and more aware than any direct-to-video sequel to an independent monster film should be. The vocal protest is enthralling. It’s speaking directly to an audience from within the fiction while maintaining obsolescence over the creature’s existence. Monsters succeeded the same way. The temptation to show them crushing cities instead of being a heady allegory is resisted.

Nowhere within the business logic of selling films should Dark Continent have avoided spectacle. Historically, this is the movie where the monsters land, knock over the Statue of Liberty, and an action star drives a missile into the creature’s heart. But they don’t. The beasts can only watch as their numbers are unmercifully slaughtered, becoming an enormous stand-in for the local populace around them. There is no lack of clarity to Dark Continent. American soldiers should only kill, never question, orders over all. Dark Continent displays the catastrophic toll of such a mindset.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Migration @ 17:14

In spite of having some startlingly well composed images, most of the post-production color work leaves Dark Continent appearing rather plain. Deserts fall into lighter tan shades with a ferocious contrast in tow. Night drops everything for complimentary blues and oranges, this backed by exquisite black levels. Some night vision shots are a relief from the color with all of the greens.

In close, Dark Continent will perform well. Facial detail is commendable. However, those shots of the desert with sand reaching far into the frame or rocky outcroppings visible – those are stupendous. Location work provides some familiar if resolved scenery.

Anchor Bay’s encoding work is invisible. Some rounds of noise, which creep in night or day, are held off by the encode. They’re part of the source and cause no further compression problems. Clarity is generally unimpeded.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Dark Continent is a loud movie. Gunfire is piercing and several notches higher than equivalent war films. Be ready. Thankfully, the positioning and surround use is spectacular. For direct-to-video, the attention to sonic detail is a highlight. The sense of being in a warzone is always considered. Jets and helicopters fill the rears. Bombing runs can be heard in the distance. Gunfire passes flawlessly between the shot and the target. This 5.1 mix feels like 7.1. It is that wide.

Missing though is heft on the low-end. Monsters stomp and bombs are dropped, although with limited impact. Rumbling never reaches the lowest necessary levels to convey something of this scale.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

A small three-minute behind-the-scenes featurette details one scene. There is no discussion of anything other than a few words about the location.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆ 

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.