(director/writer: Gareth Edwards; cinematographer: Gareth Edwards; editor: Colin Goudie; music: Jon Hopkins; cast: Scoot McNairy (Andrew Kaulder), Whitney Able (Sam Wynden); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Allan Niblo/James Richardson; Magnet; 2010-UK/USA)

“Sci-fi thriller that is fused together with a familiar road story romance.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Written and directed with pizazz by Gareth Edwards, a CGI artist specialist. The low-budget pic (for around $15,000) has stunning laptop CGI effects, and works as a sci-fi thriller that is fused together with a familiar road story romance.

Photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), in 2015, is working in San Jose, Central America, when the area is attacked by extra-terrestrial monsters. This comes six years after a NASA probe carrying samples of extra-terrestrial life back to earth crashed in Mexico. Andrew’s assignment is changed when he is ordered to escort his publisher boss’ idealistic tourist daughter Sam (Whitney Able) through the dangerous infected zone to the safety of the US border–which is supposedly protected by a giant wall structure that will keep out the rapidly breeding monsters (offering a heavy-handed message about illegals).

The mismatched duo have great difficulty crossing the ruined and beautiful rugged Mexican terrain on foot, and must pass the rusty old army tanks and must avoid the gigantic multi-tentacled monsters who attack in a deadly way–which is the reason that area is known as The Infected Zone. Though Sam’s engaged, over time in her journey, she re-evaluates her life and falls for the receptive goofy working-class Andrew. He got out of a bum marriage when learning his now 6-year-old son actually has another father–though he continues to care for him as his real son.

There’s little action and no gore, but the challenging pic sets an eerie mood, the social commentary is mostly right on and the characters are pleasingly believable as cautious adventurers and romantics. The good chemistry of the leads might be explained because at the time they were a real-life couple.