Worth a Watch? – Love & Monsters (2020)
(c) Paramount Pictures. Video courtesy of Paramount Pictures via Youtube.
What do you get when you combine a love-struck teenager, a dangerous post-apocalyptic world full of crazies, and loveable sidekicks? Well, you get Netflix’s television series Daybreak but that was canned after the first season (enjoy that giant streaming service in the sky buddy) and I prefer dogs to people so we get Love & Monsters instead.
Before we continue I just want to state that the following review is based on my own personal opinion and contains spoilers for the film.
The movie has a post-apocalypse setting which means the film’s got to have an apocalypse of the week. Unfortunately, the film checked its character sheet and realised it only had a 3 in its originality statistic so we get the classic giant asteroid heading for earth.
Luckily, the film had a “plus 1 defence against audience derision” in its ability pile and managed to roll a 10 this time. Now, instead of the asteroid causing the apocalypse, it was actually the chemical fallout from the missiles the earth launched to destroy the asteroid.
For this reason, the insects are irradiated and grow to massive size and pretty much pull a planet of the apes and take over the world… yeah it doesn’t really seem to make sense but just go with it.
With the earth well and truly bent over the railing, we’re introduced to Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) a guy surrounded by people but all alone with his pre fallout girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) is all the way across the country with miles of creature infested land between the two of them.
After narrowly surviving a giant ant attack (consequently, giant ants are now second on my list of mortal fears, just above death and below Mecha Godzilla.) and getting back in contact with Aimee, Joel makes the decision to leave the relative safety of his bunker to reconnect to her so he won’t be alone.
On his perilous cross-country journey, he encounters many strange and wonderfully detailed creatures (thankfully for this arachnophobe, no spiders) as well as some really memorable characters, namely the good dog Boy and Michael Rooker’s Clyde Dutton.
With the plot’s broad strokes pulling so much from other movies, it means the film’s quite predictable. Any flicker of hope I had that the film was sitting on a twist to spice things up was dashed by the start of the third act. Luckily, the characters did most of the heavy lifting in this film.
Both O’Brien and Henwick inject some much-needed personality into their characters and while their chemistry isn’t electric, I feel it fits the tone of the film better. Michael Rooker is on point with his Bear Grylls nature survivor type character and steals every single scene he’s in during his brief screen time. The rest of the cast does an admirable job and Joel’s bunker mates are enjoyable to watch in their limited screen time but aren’t that memorable.
For me, the real stars of the film are the freaky deaky creatures inhabiting the world. Not only are they all visually distinct from each other, the attention to detail in the design and visual effects are some of the best I’ve seen in a Netflix original film.
The visuals are paired exceptionally well with the sound design, with every single hiss, gurgle, and snarl enough to jump my blood pressure up a couple of notches at their mere sound. The special effects team, along with the stunt coordinators deserve the majority of the praise the film receives.
These all come together in a couple of great moments for me but the absolute peak has to be the Queen Sand Gobbler scene close to the beginning of the third act. The monster is horrifying both to look at and listen to. The tension build-up as Joel and Boy are trying to stay silent as the creature searches from them is masterfully done and my blood pressure was in the stratosphere during this scene.
The pièce de résistance, however, has to be the action scene during the sand gobbler scene. Clyde gives Joel a handy dandy grenade in case he gets into a sticky situation after they part. Well, a sticky situation comes around and Joel ends up lobbing the grenade into the creature’s mouth. The grenade does what grenades do (explode) and the creature’s insides are suddenly its outsides in as gory a fashion as possible.
Another great moment came much later, right near the climax of the film was a giant enemy crab emerging from the sea. The moment it happened I heard the words from that fateful 2006 Sony E3 expo echo around in my head. It’s just a shame it didn’t have a glowing weak point that Joel could attack for massive damage.
With the main characters of the film being so strong until the beginning of act three, it’s a real shame that they ended up dumping such generic stock characters at the end of the film for the human villains to “spice things up”.
The main reason I chose to watch this film was because of the creatures; they’re all I need for antagonists and the human villains just feel so tacked on. I would have preferred it if they’d rejected the traditional happy ending and forced Joel to leave Aimee or had Aimee reject Joel. That’d probably force Joel into the mountains or back to his old bunker and I would have enjoyed that ending more than the one we got.
In the end, despite the lacklustre human villains and the ho-hum generic happy ending, I would still recommend this film… and then go watch Daybreak if you’re still pining for some good post-apocalyptic television.
Have you seen Love and Monsters? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments down below or get in contact.
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