Review: 'Love and Monsters' puts fresh spin on exhausted genre
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Michael Matthews (“Five Fingers for Marseilles”) sci-fi romance “Love and Monsters” sees Dylan O’Brien traversing an earth consumed by gigantic creatures, born during a nuclear blast initially meant to save the planet from a seismic asteroid. There are many similarities between this and “Zombieland” with sight gags, wacky characters, and an engaging romance that screenwriter Brian Duffield (“Spontaneous”) uses as a terrific metaphor for finding love in 2020.
Set seven years after the “Monsterpocalypse” we meet Joel (O’Brien) who tells in an opening prologue how the earth became a breeding ground for slimy, “Cloverfield” size monsters. 95% of the planet’s population was wiped out after a nuke the size of Texas was sent into space to save earth, which ironically sent chemical particles back into our atmosphere and caused mankind’s eventual demise. Now living underground in small communities, Joel spends his days cooking for the group and dreaming of a past life, one where he was madly in love with high school sweetheart Aimee (Jessica Henwick).
As luck would have it, he receives a radio transmission from another colony and is surprised to hear Aimee on the other end. She’s 85 miles away (or seven days without transportation) and makes the hasty decision of trekking across the coast to find her. But with monsters now owning the terrain, and minimal survivalist experience, the haul is daunting. Thankfully, he runs into two fellow survivors: Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) plus a canine companion who answers to Boy.
Cinematographer Lachlan Milne shoots one of the more visual appealing wastelands where monsters have an ample playground to wreak havoc on. Not to mention each creature is distinct with their own strengths and weaknesses (which is kept inside Joel’s handy notebook). There are giant frogs and snails who can crush at a moment’s notice while camouflaging in broad daylight and poisonous slugs lurking in the ocean depths waiting for fresh blood. A climactic showdown which includes a skyscraper sized crustacean and O’Brien wielding a spear like Aquaman showcases the impressive VFX work.
Things get dicey with the inclusion of a last second antagonist, suggesting monsters aren’t the threat but scavengers who loot and steal. While it seemed inevitable that bad people would weasel into the plot, “Love and Monsters” works at optimal levels when Joel and Boy travel through the countryside, discovering the world around them for the first time. O’Brian, thanks to “The Maze Runner,” is no stranger to dystopic wastelands and knows how to radiate poise in tough situations, and turns up another fine performance playing the ambitious lover boy.
Plenty of other notable, epic, monster sequences balance out the comedic aspects of “Love and Monsters,” which has enough narrative real estate to suggest a possible franchise. But Matthew’s film works as its own singular version, and doesn’t get bogged down by fantasy mythology or bore the audience with an uninspired plot. Instead, we get an engaging love story populated with man eating creatures and an adorable pup that inadvertently steals the show.
LOVE AND MONSTERS will be available on premium VOD Friday October 16th