(John Eyres, USA/Germany, 1993)


Back in the '50s, the Hollywood film industry fought tenaciously against the encroaching threat of that new consumer service, television. Novel technological formats, such as wide-screen and surround sound, were introduced to guarantee that the cinema experience remained qualitatively different from the domestic pleasures offered by the small screen.

This battle still continues. But in at least one decisive way, the war has long been lost. Movies, today, routinely model themselves not on cinema successes but popular television series, and this is particularly evident in the reams of modest film productions released straight to video.

Intrepid critics have hardly begun to trace the family tree of all the recent movies inspired variously by Miami Vice, Moonlighting, Twin Peaks and Thirtysomething.

Monolith inaugurates a cycle of movies made under the spell of TV's The X-Files. The ingredients are familiar: an investigative team (Bill Paxton and Lindsay Frost) vacillating between love and hate; a mysterious alien presence suddenly forcing itself into the public eye; and an insidious government conspiracy run by nervous security agents and a mad scientist (John Hurt).

The film has a wonderfully catastrophic opening, and a grand finale that finally drops the X-Files formula for a colourful homage to the Alien series of movies. In between, Paxton and Frost unleash a rather tiresome barrage of sardonic one-liners and buddy-buddy quips.

But Monolith, directed by John Eyres (auteur of the Project Shadowchaser series), is recommended for SF and horror devotees.

© Adrian Martin December 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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