Can love still win even during the apocalypse? What if that apocalypse meant that the world was infested with massive, mutated insects? Paramount Picture’s Love and Monsters, releasing Friday, October 16th on VOD, attempts to answer those questions with an action-packed new take on a tale as old as time. In this sweet, goofy, and original new film from Director Michael Matthews (Five Fingers for Marseilles 2017) and Writers Brian Duffield (Insurgent 2015, The Babysitter 2017) and Matthew Robinson (The Invention of Lying 2009, Dora and the Lost City of Gold 2019), a typical coming-of-age story gets a fresh, monster-infested twist. Oh, and there’s a cute dog.
Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien: The Maze Runner 2014, Teen Wolf series), along with everyone else in the world, has spent the last seven years living in an underground bunker. With the surface world infested by massively mutated cold-blooded creatures out for blood, living a normal twenty-something life is out of the question. After reconnecting via radio with his former high school sweetheart Aimee (Jessica Henwick: Game of Thrones series, Iron Fist series), Joel decides to head for the surface and make the impossible 85-mile journey to find her.
Unfortunately, Joel’s survival skills kind of suck, but along the way he comes across an unlikely pair of survivalists in Clyde (Michael Rooker: The Walking Dead series, Guardians of the Galaxy 2014) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt: Avengers: Infinity War 2018, The One and Only Ivan 2020), and a very good dog who help him along his journey. As Joel stumbles his way across the dangerous surface, he discovers that there is more to life than just hiding underground.
It is unfortunate that Love and Monsters will not find its way into theaters (thanks COVID-19), because the monsters are insanely cool and would have looked awesome on the big screen. The creature designs are clever, and the effects are so well done that the monsters seem to come to life on screen. And it is not only the visuals, but the awesome sound design that makes these monsters feel real.
However, the monsters are only half of the story. Joel’s journey across the surface in engaging from the start thanks to the awkwardly charming O’Brien who carries the film effortlessly— along with the dog, of course. Normally a coming-of-age story features a young teen, but when some of your most formative years happen in an underground bunker, growing up is just a bit different. This film finds an unlikely hero in Joel that audiences will be sure to root for. The cast overall is excellent, and each of Joel’s companions could warrant their own movie.
The title Love and Monsters pretty neatly sums up the heart of this film, but this story about a young man trying to find his old girlfriend while trying not to be eaten by giant killer bugs becomes much more than that. The “love” is more than just romantic, its about family and friendship, too. And the “monsters” can be people, too. This story could have gone wrong in so many ways, and yet the end result is a sweet, heartwarming story about love and self-discovery that takes itself just seriously enough to work.
We have likely all seen our fair share of monster flicks, end-of-the world movies, and coming-of-age stories. Mashing them all together might not seem like it would create something worthwhile, but somehow, it does. The film overall suffers from a few pacing problems, but does seem to set up for the possibility of more stories in this world. Right now, some more love and more monsters would be welcome. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Love and Monsters 4 out of 5 stars.