Love and Monsters is a 2020 monster apocalypse adventure film that hit the UK screens on Netflix in mid-April. With a low key, non-A list cast, it was released to fairly little fanfare or advertisement, which is a shame as many might miss what is in fact a hugely fun and entertaining watch.
Directed by Michael Matthews and written by Brian Duffield (The Babysitter) and Matthew Robinson (Monster Trucks), Love and Monsters gives us yet another take on the end of the world. This time around, humankind wiped out an asteroid set on a collision course with Earth with nuclear weapons. While their mission was successful, it has unforeseen circumstances – fallout from the weapons fell back to Earth and while humans were unaffected, it caused horrendous mutations for any cold-blooded creatures. Soon the planet is overcome by giant insects, amphibians and crustaceans, and with 95% of the population dead, the survivors retreat into underground bunkers, barely venturing to the surface.
Seven years after the apocalypse, we meet Joel (Dylan O’Brien), living in a bunker with a group of adults all of whom are paired up in relationships. Joel is a liability and a bit of a wimp, and as the only single person, spends his time reminiscing about his ex-girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick), who he last saw 7 years ago. Aimee now resides in another colony 85 miles away on the coast, and despite talking to her on the radio, Joel isn’t satisfied. After a brush with death when a mutated ant invades their bunker, Joel decides to venture out into the world alone and make the 7 day trip to Aimee’s colony. Despite his limited survival skills, Joel manages to keep alive long enough to befriend a lonely dog, Boy, and cross paths with grizzled Clyde (Michael Rooker) and his young charge Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), who try to teach him the means he needs to survive his journey.
The plot is not exactly original, as we’ve seen this journeying through the apocalypse story many times before and it plays out as predictably as you could imagine. However, the monster apocalypse caused by human nuclear trigger happiness is at least a different take and the comic book style opening sequence makes it entertaining and smoothly sets up the tone of the entire film. With Joel’s neurotic cowardly character and the narration style adopted, this feels very similar to Zombieland (albeit a PG version), and that’s definitely not a bad thing. It’s smart, funny, heartwarming and has surprisingly impressive CGI. While it may not be as funny as Zombieland and the PG style means it’s lacking in any decent gore or horror, it is immensely fun to watch.
What makes this film shine above the unoriginal plot is the cast. Dylan O’Brien is incredibly strong and believable as the hapless Joel and carries at least half of this film on his own effortlessly. With the narration style and later on in his interactions with Boy, I actually believe O’Brien could’ve carried this entire film on his own and made it just as engaging and entertaining. That said, the introduction of Rooker and Greenblatt as two other travellers brings some welcome human interactions. Greenblatt is witty and funny as Minnow, and Rooker is likeable no matter who he plays, and the grizzled, helpful yet sardonic Clyde is no exception. And of course, an honourable mention has to go to Boy, one of the most adorable dogs I’ve seen on screen in recent years.
I went into Love and Monsters expecting a second rate monster movie, with a clichéd script and terrible CGI. What I got instead was an incredibly fun and entertaining film that I enjoyed a lot more than I ever thought I would. Such a pleasant surprise.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!