Good old RedBox—the gift that keeps on giving, in terms of super cheap movie rentals that provide ample blog fodder for a writer constantly in search of content. My most recent RedBox rental was the delightful, if mildly derivate, adventure romantic comedy Love and Monsters (2020).
Love and Monsters is another post-apocalyptic film, albeit one with a refreshing twist: instead of zombies infesting the world, the destruction of an asteroid (named, hilariously, “Agatha”) with chemical weapons resulted in cold-blooded creatures evolving rapidly into massive, mutated versions of themselves. Ants the size of Buicks roam the world; giant, multi-eyed toads inhabit murky swimming pools; massive crabs swim in the seas.
Needless to say, these insectoid hordes have wiped out 95% of humanity. The remnant dwells underground in bunkers and fallout shelters, sending out tentative scouting parties to find canned foods and other necessities. Different colonies communicate via ham radio, keeping in contact but never able to reach one another due to the monster-infested overworld.
That is, until our protagonist, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien), discovers his teenage girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) alive at a coastal colony eighty-five miles away. In an act of foolhardy romanticism, Joel vows to venture out from his colony to find his beloved, reuniting with her and—in his mind—reigniting their young love seven years later, in the post-apocalyptic world.
The only problem is that Joel is the worst fighter and scout in his colony—so much so that the other men leave him behind on defense missions and hunting forays. Joel has the bad habit of freezing up when he encounters the massive bugs and lizards populating his world, and has relied on his quick-thinking and -acting friends to keep him alive. He isn’t a coward—he wants to help the colony, and attempts to do so bravely when a giant ant breaches their defenses—but he can’t help but freeze.
After some brief tips and tearful goodbyes from his more capable friends, Joel sets off westward in search of love. Along the way, he meets a dog—just called “Boy”—in an abandoned van. Boy saves Joel from a massive toad residing in a swimming pool, and the two become fast companions. Joel also encounters two survivalists, Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), who teach the green Joel how to survive in their strange new world.
Clyde reminded me an awful lot of Woody Harrelson’s character in Zombieland (2009); indeed, the film had a very Zombieland-esque feel to it: fish-out-of-water dweeb trying to get the girl in a post-apocalyptic world with few other people (and, therefore, dating options). Clyde dispenses grizzled, tough-love-style advice to Joel, and humorously mocks Joel’s delusions that he is some kind of “noble warrior flying aloft on the wings of love.” Minnow—who, like everyone in this world, has lost many of her loved ones—becomes attached to Joel as a sibling of sorts, and both encourage Joel to join them as they towards the mountains, where the cold weather discourages the bugs, but Joel persists on his quest of love.
I can’t reveal much more of the plot without ruining it with spoilers, but it’s a very fun romp. I particularly liked the monsters, which are no-doubt CGI, but look like the monsters of 1980s films, as if they were made with practical effects. The monsters at times almost have a Ray Harryhausen stop-motion feel to them, though they’re not as jerky. My point is that they felt more real than many movie monsters of twenty-first-century cinema.
The film is highly derivative of Zombieland, but features enough original touches that it doesn’t feel merely like a clone. It also didn’t include (as far as I can remember) any whinging wokeness, instead just letting the characters develop and grow organically, rather than to fit some political commentary. Even the monsters enjoyed nuance, as not all of them were unthinking beasts ravenous with bloodlust. Joel’s creature of a monster manual of sorts also played to the character’s softer, more artistic nature—and demonstrated that, even at the end of the world, we need artists.
In short, I definitely recommend giving Love and Monsters ninety-eight minutes of your time. It’s not the most groundbreaking film ever made, but it’s an enjoyable little bit of world-building with some romance tossed in for good measure.
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