LOVE AND MONSTERS (2020)
Starring Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Dan Ewing, Ariana Greenblatt, Ellen Hollman, Tre Hale, Pacharo Mzembe, Senie Priti, Amali Golden, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Tasneem Roc, Thomas Campbell, Joel Pierce, Melanie Zanetti, Bruce Spence, Hazel Phillips, Miriama Smith, Andrew Buchanan and Tandi Wright.
Screenplay by Brian Duffield, Matthew Robinson.
Directed by Michael Matthews.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 109 minutes. Rated PG-13.
I have a confession to make. I’ve pretty much had it with post-apocalyptic films. There are so many films about life after the end of civilization out there, and they are mostly interchangeable, tiresome stories about unlikable people facing their mortality by turning into unfeeling savages and assholes.
Occasionally, one will catch my interest – for example A Quiet Place and the imperfect, but still intriguing new CBS All Access series of the granddaddy of them all, Stephen King’s The Stand. But mostly, it is a genre which has become nearly impossible for me to sit still through.
Which is why it surprises me to say that while Love and Monsters is not exactly a good movie, it is one of the better of the hordes of post-apocalyptic thrillers swarming the streaming services. It stands out for much the same reason that Shaun of the Dead stood out in the overcrowded post-apocalyptic sub-genre of zombie films – because Love and Monsters doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows it is kind of ridiculous and allows itself to have a puckish sense of humor, as well as lovingly paying tribute to old genre films.
Those old genre films which are ancestors of Love and Monsters are the 1950s and 1960s films in which through radiation insects, lizards and other small creatures grow to giant proportions, and gain an appetite for human flesh.
Those films were always kind of goofy and corny, so Love and Monsters takes the smart and (some would consider) inevitable tack of being a bit goofy and corny itself. And it works surprisingly well.
The idea was always silly (why didn’t the humans and other animals grow, too?) and the effects were always cheesy. So, why not throw yourself into the campiness of the situation? Embrace the ridiculousness of giant snails and cockroaches. Which is what Love and Monsters does, much like the similar genre pastiche Tremors did a few decades ago.
And like Tremors, I wouldn’t be surprised if Love and Monsters gets an appreciative cult following. It will never be a big box office hit – in fact, it’s essentially going straight to video in this new post-COVID world (and it probably would have even pre-pandemic) – but the people who do like it will probably become passionate about it.
I, on the other hand, am not passionate about it, however I do recognize it as a good and fun genre film. Sometimes that’s all you need.
It rides upon a strong lead performance by Dylan O’Brien, whose eccentric anti-hero rides on the star’s natural charisma. O’Brien looked to be headed towards Hollywood stardom a few years ago with stuff like The Maze Runner series, Deepwater Horizon and American Assassin, but he has now settled back into this kind of b-movie making, which is a fine place to be. And honestly, Love and Monsters is a much more enjoyable dystopian fantasy than Maze Runner was, even if it was made for a fraction of the budget. Maybe because it was made for a fraction of the budget.
Added points for the fun supporting role by the always reliably awesome Michael Rooker, who plays a fellow survivor O’Brien meets on the way with a good-humored intelligence.
The story doesn’t exactly make any sense, and there are a few significant plot holes, but that’s okay, that just fits in with the earlier movies that were the film’s inspirations. Sometimes just not taking the end of the world so seriously turns out to be the right choice. At least on film.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 5, 2021.