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Sunday, October 18, 2020

[Review] Delightful Monster Mash ‘Love and Monsters’ Embraces the Comedy-Horror Spirit of ‘Zombieland’

The apocalypse has been presented in countless different ways in the movie world over the years, from the zombies of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to the new ice age of The Day After Tomorrow. Movies are constantly preparing us for any number of disastrous scenarios that could potentially wipe out humanity, some scarily realistic and others too over the top to even worry about. It’s in the latter category that you’ll find Paramount’s Love and Monsters, a high concept apocalypse movie that ponders a world overrun by giant monsters.

Director Michael Matthews‘s Love and Monsters efficiently lays out what’s what in its fun opening sequence, explaining that an asteroid was headed to Earth seven years prior to the events of the movie. In response, we bombed the hell out of the thing, unleashing a toxic rainstorm that mutated every animal it came into contact with. Cockroaches, once stepped on by humans, became massive monsters that even tanks couldn’t destroy, and the same goes for all cold-blooded creatures. Humans dropped to the bottom of the food chain, and 95% of humanity was lost in the first year. In the present day, our hero Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) has been hiding in a bunker for several years. But after making contact with his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick), Joel decides to venture out on a quest to reunite with her.

Monster movies often feature a single monster or at least a single species of monster, but the fun of the concept here is that there are literally new monsters lurking around every corner. Co-writer Brian Duffield‘s vision of the apocalypse unleashes a wide array of imaginative perversions of animals we come into contact with on a daily basis, with a frog becoming a massive, multi-eyed blob of terror and a tiny worm blowing up to the size of a Graboid from the Tremors franchise. Matthews does a wonderful job building out the world and introducing us to as many different monsters as he can pack into a single narrative, allowing Love and Monsters to be the full-on monster mash that its premise promises.

That world-building is both front and center and on the periphery, with barely seen creatures frequently scuttling about in the background to remind us that they’re *everywhere*. Monster eggs are stuck to the top of vehicles like barnacles, the trees are covered in web, and what looks like a massive spider is long-dead underneath a school bus that took a dive off a bridge. Matthews and the team aimed for a unique “Monsterpocalypse” vibe for the film and they nailed it, presenting a world that’s been ravaged by time and destruction as well as a world that’s very much still dominated by monsters few have seen and lived to warn others about. For a monster-lover like myself, it’s a world that’s a blast to hang around in for a bit.

In addition to the monsters, the world of Love and Monsters is also populated by lovable characters, with Dylan O’Brien in particular proving to be an incredibly charming lead as the timid everyman hero who’s forced to become something he never dreamed he’d be. O’Brien, who also narrates much of the film, is delightful in the role, and he’s joined by an equally likable cast including Michael Rooker‘s seasoned hunter Clyde Dutton and Ariana Greenblatt‘s Minnow, a tough-as-nails little kid who serves as Clyde’s sidekick. And then there’s Boy, a dog that Joel befriends and takes on his journey with him. It feels a little weird to rave about a dog delivering an emotionally powerful performance in a movie, but here we are. Like all of the human characters, Boy has a tragic backstory of his own, and the filmmakers and trainers do an incredible job selling that emotion through the dog’s reactions and expressions.

What makes Love and Monsters such an enjoyable trip into the “Monsterpocalypse” is that its heart is as big as the monsters that inhabit its world. It’s an upbeat film, first and foremost, but it’s also a movie that doesn’t shy away from digging into the tragedy and profound loss that comes along with existing in a world that doesn’t have much of humanity left in it. The emotional beats hit and they sometimes hit hard, while the movie also does a good job driving home the uplifting themes of finding your inner strength, sticking with the ones you love and maybe most importantly of all, not hiding from the world simply because it’s full of nasty things that want to hurt you. For a movie about a world overrun by giant, terrifying monsters, Love and Monsters manages to be as feel-good as any movie released this year.

It’s hard not to compare Love and Monsters to Zombieland, a similar road trip adventure about finding your tribe in a monster-filled world – both films even feature main character narration and a set of rules for surviving their post apocalyptic scenarios – but that’s damn sure not a bad thing in my world. Love and Monsters is very much armed with that same comedy-horror spirit of Zombieland, infused with the kid-friendly monster mash delights of 2015’s Goosebumps movie. And it’s an added bonus that Love and Monsters, despite whatever comparisons we may be able to make, is actually a wholly original property. It’s not based on a popular book or comic series, though it may seem like it must be, making it an increasingly rare example of an original monster movie with a sizable studio budget. It feels tailor made for franchising, and in a perfect world, it’d probably spawn its own toy line as well.

In a perfect world, it must be stressed. Though Love and Monsters was originally set to receive a big time theatrical release, it’s instead been unloaded direct to Premium VOD this weekend. Here’s hoping it can pull in enough money from those $20 PVOD rentals to warrant a follow-up, because this is one movie that is absolutely begging for a franchise expansion.

We always need more monster movies. Especially ones aimed at younger audiences. After all, movies like Love and Monsters are what help create the monster kids of tomorrow.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3637249/review-delightful-monster-mash-love-monsters-embraces-comedy-horror-spirit-zombieland/

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