Writer/director Randal Kamradt’s The Monsters Without (Philippines, 2021) is an interesting creature feature affair. It leans more toward fantasy and adventure than horror, but monster movie fans will want to check this one out for the wide range of supernatural beasts from Philippine folklore on tap, including the rather well-known flying, baby-eating Manananggal.
In the English-language The Monsters Without, yablo (monsters) are real, and an ancient entity called Nameless (voice of Nick Medina) has risen to return the other yablo to their home dimension, a move that also threatens humanity. A Philippines-based team of scientists and soldiers called P.H.A.S.E. is the only hope to thwart Nameless’ evil plan. When Nameless kidnaps group leader Setsuko’s (Christina Yr. Lim) newlywed husband Rommel Romero (Jake Macapagal) — second in command at P.H.A.S.E. — matters get personal, and Sesuko and her teammates put themselves in harm’s way to try to rescue Rommel and save the world.
Kamradt shows a deft hand at both action and comedy, and paces the film nicely. The members of the main cast — which also include Dana Jamison as American security specialist April and Andrew Reiley as American technology whiz Richard, April Rose Estoy as team biologist and Rommel’s sister Wonder, Leonard Olaer as new intern Benito, and Jessica MacCleary as new recruit Miranda — were evidently directed to play it broad, and they dive into their roles with relish.
It’s difficult, though, to tell who the target audience for The Monsters Without is meant to be. The acting style, much of the humor, and many of the plot elements are straight out of a children’s fantasy TV series or a family creature feature film — nothing wrong with that — but there are romantic and sexual elements — nothing wrong with those, either — that seem like they may be too mature for many younger viewers.
For this reviewer, a most impressive element of The Monsters Without is the quality of the variety of monsters on display. Most are done with practical effects and run the gamut from fun-looking to downright eerie. Kamradt taught himself VFX for the film, and those effects show their limitations at times, but overall the beasties on display are quite delightful.
The Monsters Without has a big heart behind it. It should press the nostalgia buttons for viewers who grew up watching TV series like Monsters and Goosebumps and movies such as The Monster Squad, and it has the potential to introduce the rest of the world to a bevy of supernatural beasts from The Philippines.
The Monsters Without screens as part of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, which runs September 23–October 2, 2021.
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