There's so much right with Gareth Edwards's low-budget alien invasion tale that you almost want to brush aside everything that's not up to snuff. The writer-director more-than-convincingly creates a near-future Earth coinhabited by humans and tentacled beasties from space, gussying up actual locations in Mexico, Belize and Texas (filmed guerrilla-style) with seamlessly integrated home-computer effects. Every image looks like millions of bucks, though the whole thing cost only $15,000. And Edwards should be further commended for using his F/X with a sparing eye, the better to focus on the human story at the movie's center.
Photographer Kaulder (McNairy) is sent to find his wealthy boss's daughter, Samantha (Able), and bring her back home. Circumstances force them to travel through the alien-populated infected zone (a godforsaken Mexico), which leads to a very well-played tentative romance. Yet they also have a number of unbearably on-the-nose exchanges: Staring at a massive dividing wall on the U.S. border, the lily-white duo dreamily remarks how gosh-darn weird it is to be looking at America from the outside. There's way too much of this overly explicit verbal folderol. It's frustrating, considering Edwards deftly upends conventions elsewhere, as in the scene where Kaulder and Samantha get their first full look at the titular monsters---a strangely sublime piece of work worthy of a stronger film.
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Cast and crew