Love and Monsters film review
Release date October 16, 2020 (Netflix) 1 hour and 45 minutes
Directed by Michael Matthews.
Reviewed by Russell McGilton
Ava Gardner was rumoured to have said that Melbourne was, ‘The perfect place to make a film about the end of the world.’ As it turns out, so is Queensland.
Filmed in and around Mount Cotton and Brisbane, Love and Monsters is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi comedy where once innocuous creatures (think anything crawling around in your compost) have metamorphosed into giant monsters, thanks to the fallout from an asteroid, and have eaten most of the world’s population.
Hunkered in their silo, like a perverse extension of a COVID lockdown, is a small colony populated by twenty-something survivalists, who have all coupled up but for our protagonist, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien Maze Runner) who yearns for his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick, Game of Thrones), who conveniently for the plot, is far far away in another colony.
Motivated by the axiom ‘There’s No Mission More Admirable Than Love’ Joel overcomes his rigid fear of monsters (he’s relegated as the cook rather than as a defender) and thus embarks on well-worn ‘Hero’s Journey’ quest – departure, initiation and return.
On the way he is befriended by a Kelpie named Boy and a duo of battle-weary out-in-the-open survivalists, Clyde (Michael Rooker) and an 8-year-old, Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), who take a very dim view of Joel surviving even one night in these monstered wilds.
While there’s plenty of icky, slimy gooey monsters to have you wanting to wipe the screen (Sand Gobblers, Chumblers and a giant crab that looks like a mocha green Monte Carlo biscuit) chasing and trapping our hero, it’s hard not to think that Love and Monsters is a mishmash of many other films we’ve seen before: Ghost Busters, Predator, Aliens, Tremors, and casting the genre net a little wider, Rob Reiner’s teen comedy, The Sure Thing.
Despite the odd chair-gripping scenes and wisecracks ‘I’m gonna eat you like broccoli!’ and the refrain ‘You stole food, didn’t you?’ when questioned as to why Joel left the safety of his colony, the story unfortunately sinks into sentimental quicksand after Joel leaves his new survivalist friends, and wallows in cheery Disney homilies given by the robot Mav1s while Stand By Me plays through the scene. It’s so saccharine, so Little House on the Prairie, you can literally feel cavities aching into your molars and you start wishing for a giant frog to eat the both of them in one hurried gulp to make it all stop. Why the director Michael Mathews and co-screenwriter Brian Duffield thought this robot character was necessary at all is beyond comprehension as it ‘Ja Ja Binkses’ the plot rather than enhancing it.
That said, Love and Monsters ticks all the boxes for a PG-13 sci-fi (it was nominated for an Oscar Best Achievement in Visual Effects) and there’s plenty of scares and action for fans of the genre. It’s great to see Australian actors Dan Ewing (as Joel’s arch nemesis Cap), Damien Garvey and Bruce Spence though not for very long. However, at almost two hours long, Love and Monsters issues a monster challenge just to keep you sitting in your chair.