The chemical fallout from hundreds of rockets used to destroy an asteroid on a collision course with Earth causes all cold-blooded creatures to mutate into monsters of varying sizes. A large percentage of the human population is wiped out and survivors now live in isolated groups in underground colonies. Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) is one of these survivors and, though he tends to freeze in tense situations, he decides to leave the bunker he has lived in for seven years to go on a trek to another colony where his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) lives.
This movie is a lot of fun. The tone is light (my wife, who really dislikes monster films, even enjoyed it!), the characters are likeable and the various monsters are interesting and look good onscreen.
The first creature we are introduced to is a giant ‘ant’-monster that has managed to get into Joel’s bunker. Joel freezes when he encounters the beast, but he’s saved by his comrades.
Once Joel starts his quest above ground we are shown the sunny, rewilded world with lots of hints of how the place has changed (clusters of eggs attached to trees, etc). This landscape is nicely realised, I think, and it’s fun to see hive-caves in cliffs, areas of webbing, the carcass of a huge, dead arthropod in the distance and so on: these are all cool details that add to the enjoyment of the film.
When Joel enters some overgrown suburbs he’s assailed by a multi-eyed, toad-like monster that emerges from a stagnant garden pond. He survives the amphibious, long-tongued nightmare with the help of his new companion – a dog named Boy. And I just need to point this out: that dog is a good actor!
Joel, still rather clumsy and inept, next topples into a hole that’s actually a nest of worm creatures called Sand-Gobblers. This time he’s saved by two roaming survivors: tough guy Clyde Dutton (Michael Rooker) and equally tough little girl Minnow.
Joel travels with the pair for a while (they are heading to a mountain range where the colder weather and higher elevation supposedly will mean fewer monsters) and he learns useful survival skills and knowledge. For instance, he is told that Boulder Snails aren’t dangerous (“You can always tell in their eyes”).
Joel finally splits from Minnow & Clyde (because he’s still intent on finding Aimee) and finally becomes a bonafide monster-killer when he has to confront a nasty, long-bodied centipede monster that is intent on eating his dog Boy.
After encountering a friendly robot and some floating, glowing plankton-like organisms that light up the night sky, Joel finds himself in danger again the next day when he’s attacked by a Queen Sand-Gobbler.
Joel deals with this subterranean menace but has to immediately swim across a river that Boy has entered… and he gets covered in small, lamprey-mouthed leech-things that cause him to hallucinate. Luckily Joel remembers there’s a plant that can offset the effects of the leech venom.
Joel eventually reaches Aimee’s colony, where he has to come to terms with the fact that Aimee has moved on emotionally. We get a fun finale with some devious survivors and a massive crab, then Joel decides to head back to his own bunker, realising that the people there are his real friends.
LOVE AND MONSTERS is a feel-good creature feature that is reminiscent of a monster apocalypse version of the undead comedy flick ZOMBIELAND (2009). There’s lots to like, including the way Joel continually jots down notes and drawings of each monster he encounters so that he can create a survival guide.
All the monsters were well envisaged and I especially liked the look of the centipede monster and the sucker-tongued toad critter! The way the Queen Sand-Gobbler rockets beneath the dirt (with a shark-esque ‘fin’ poking above the surface) was nicely done too.
I think there’s a lot of scope for another romp through this monster world, so here’s hoping there’s going to be a sequel. Please!