Love and Monsters Movie Review
In a time of crisis, at least we have the romantic drama that is Love and Monsters, about a timid young man attempting to brave a monster apocalypse to reunite with his high school crush. Unexpectedly well-made and consistently entertaining, it’s a little surprising that Paramount didn’t promote this more heavily when it was released.
Featuring impressive visual effects, unique creature design, and a straightforward story that knows and respects its limitations, Love and Monsters, directed by Michael Matthews, may not be the most incredible film to crush on audiences, but it’s a perfectly good movie to enjoy at home during a pandemic.
Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner) stars as Joel, who is trapped with several people in an underground bunker. Known for freezing instead of fighting, Joel has bigger problems: all his bunker-mates are coupled up, leaving him the odd man out. Luckily he is in radio contact with his old flame Aimee (Jessica Henwick), who is only 60 miles away. Frustrated—romantically, and surely sexually—he decides to set aside his fears and seek out love, even if it’s likely to kill him.
Love and Monsters, you can tell, sort of wants to be Zombieland. Though it takes its overall plot more seriously, Matthews treats the material with a lighthearted hand, if there is such thing as a lighthearted hand. The screenplay by Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson has small doses of humor throughout, and enough odd interactions with humans and monsters alike to keep you on your toes. But it’s not nearly as funny as it could have been, and while maybe Love and Monsters wasn’t aiming to be a laugh-out-loud comedy, you can tell Matthews never entirely figures out the tone of the movie.
Even still, Love and Monsters maintains a consistent level of entertainment, a consistency that largely has been lacking from direct-to-video releases this year. The monster sequences are brimming with energy; they’re fun to watch, and the creature design is easy to admire, too. The world, too, feels fully realized, all the more impressive given the movie’s modest $30 million budget.
O’Brien serves as a strong protagonist, deftly balancing between the seriousness of the apocalypse around him and the silliness of the overall concept. He seems to be constantly navigating both sides, and again, while the movie doesn’t entirely nail the most effective tone, O’Brien is a fine lead to work with what’s been given to him.
Without going into detail, it would have been nice to see the movie lean into the love portion of its title just a little more. While I understand the direction the story takes, Love and Monsters could have afforded a little more creativity on the romance side.
Love and Monsters is the movie we need right now. Entertaining, fun, and creative, it’s a pandemic movie for people sick of the pandemic—and of indie dramas and theatrical throwaways. Though originally intended for a theatrical release itself, Love and Monsters feels like the perfect film for video-on-demand distribution. And I mean that in a good way.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.