Before he helmed 2014's Godzilla, Gareth Edwards wrote and directed the 2010 cult film, Monsters. A character-driven love story with its titular alien entities effectively placed in the background for most of the movie's runtime, Monsters takes a unique approach to the creature feature subgenre, as does its sequel, Monsters: Dark Continent. With the follow-up film to Monsters now out in theaters and available on VOD from RADiUS, we had a chance to talk with the movie's co-writer and director, Tom Green, who discussed shooting in the Jordanian desert, realistically portraying military life, the large potential of the Monsters franchise, and much more.

Reminiscent of real life recent events (minus the creatures), Monsters: Dark Continent follows an American Army unit fighting both humans and monsters in the sands of the Middle East. The result is a gut-punch of a picture that unflinchingly explores the horrors of combat, the haunting psychological effects of war, and the powerful friendships of a tight-knit platoon.

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk about Monsters: Dark Continent. How did you get attached to this project and were you a fan of Gareth Edwards’ 2010 film, Monsters, prior to helming and co-writing this film?

Tom Green: Yeah, I was a huge fan of Monsters. I really identified with what he [Gareth] was doing in terms of building this world out of visual effects—I was trying to do a similar thing with my TV show, Misfits. I thought it was one of the most innovative films I’d seen in years, so when the producers got in touch with me a couple of years later and wanted to do something similar, I was really keen to get involved.

We talked about how the film shouldn’t be a continuing narrative, but that it should continue the principles of what Gareth had done with Monsters.

This film is first and foremost a character-driven story about brothers in arms trying to survive the horrors of a war that includes monsters. Though this is a colossal creature feature, how important was it for you to stay focused on the characters and make them fully investable for the audience?

Tom Green: It was important for us to continue the principles of what Gareth had done with Monsters, which is a character-driven movie in which the monsters are in the background of a really exciting world. We approached the script as a character-driven, visual drama—a war film that explores the human condition of men at war, the brotherhood of friends, the psychological effects of being at war for too long, and the traumas of combat. With creatures, we explored the situations of the real world that we live in now.

This is a low-budget movie and sometimes the visual effects have to be in the background of the characters’ perspective. We couldn’t have huge set pieces with creatures crashing through New York. But that always forced us back to the characters, which is a good thing, that’s the driving force of the film—the heart of the story.

From the barracks to the battlefield, this film’s depiction of the soldier lifestyle really feels authentic. How did you ensure the in-the-sand realism of this story?

Tom Green: I always try to approach things from the point of authenticity. I’ve done that for my short films, working with non-actors from the real environments where you go exploring and placing them into the cast alongside professional actors. In Monsters: Dark Continent, it’s mostly professional actors in the cast, but there’s one young man who I just met in Detroit who plays one of the main guys in the unit.

When I was developing the script in the UK, I worked with undercover British officers who had done tours in Afghanistan. I met with lots of soldiers. Most of the sequences—except for the creature sequences—were influenced by someone I spoke with or documentaries I studied. We worked very closely with two U.S. Marines on the set for the whole shoot, and they helped me block all the action sequences. I wanted the film to be a very authentic look at the events in the Middle East, only with creatures in it. I wanted it to have a documentary-style quality, with the camera right at the heart of the action.

I understand you shot much of the film in the Jordanian desert. What were the challenges and rewards of shooting in that effective, at times isolated, environment?

Tom Green: We shot the film in 4.5 weeks—four weeks in Jordan and four days in Detroit. I wanted to create an authentic, immersive environment for the actors. Gareth’s [film, Monsters] was in Central America and I wanted to create a completely different aesthetic for this film, as the desert becomes a character, as well.

The people in Jordan were very generous to us. We got to see some incredible things and document the military there and go up in helicopters. Every day had a real story to it and the film’s emblematic of that. One day you’re hanging out in a Black Hawk helicopter and then you’d be in a refugee camp working with people there. We traveled down through the country into the desert amongst the tribes. It was hard when we were shooting visual effects sequences, and it was a much more storyboarded-constructed filmmaking experience. Other times, we were placing actors within the bedroom of a nomadic tribe. We were living and existing with these people and finding stories and motivation around us.

It was a really extraordinary experience and I don’t think we could have had that in many other places. And we were still very sensitive of the environments, being close to the Iraqi border. Sometimes environments can feel very disconnected from the films you make, but working with U.S. Marines and being in uniform and riding in Humvees over there, it all felt very authentic for the actors. It was a very special experience to film in that country.

This film really digs into the psychological effects of combat, and as Staff Sgt. Frater, who has 17 in-action years and 8 tours of duty under his belt, Johnny Harris does an amazing job showing what war can do to a person. What was it like collaborating with Harris to bring Frater to life in such a vivid and haunting way?

Tom Green: Johnny’s one of the most talented actors in the UK. He has an incredible real life story. He used to be a boxer as a young lad. He was training to be a boxer when he was seventeen and then his life took different twists and turns and he got into acting. And he really wanted to "go there" with this role. He wanted to explore the real depths of this character, who is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Johnny took it very seriously and did a lot of research on that subject and his commitment to that was incredible, both to watch and to work with. He stayed method, too. For the entire shoot, he stayed in character. He wanted to make sure he was conveying the real, visceral horror of the sequences we were putting onscreen. It was exhilarating to work with him in that incredibly intense way and I’m very proud of how far he takes it in the film—as the character he created, he’s unrecognizable from the man he is as a human being. It’s a haunting performance.

What are your thoughts on the potential of the Monsters film franchise? Would you like to tell more stories in the Monsters universe?

Tom Green: To me, the Monsters franchise is all about telling stories with real scale and social relevance. It’s about approaching small-budget filmmaking with limitless ambition. Gareth’s film was a love story and our film was completely different. It’s an exciting franchise for that reason. It’s not one continuing character going to different locations in different stories, it’s about the filmmaking—the allegory of the filmmaking. It would be really exciting for that to continue and if that's with me, that would be great. If it’s another filmmaker, that would be exciting, too. It would be great to be a part of that in the way that Gareth has been very supportive to me. I would like to be supportive of someone else if they wanted to come in and make a Monsters 3.


  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.