Don’t let the “Love” in Love and Monsters fool you, as this is first and foremost an adventure film. Directed by Michael Matthews, Love and Monsters sees a young man named Joel (Dylan O’Brien) discover his inner hero as he travels across the monster-infested United States to reunite with his high-school girlfriend. Essentially this film is a man trying to get from point A to point B for the sake of love. There’s a goal, a destination, and something waiting for him at the end.
Love and Monsters is simple, it’s not concerned with a larger narrative, great mysteries, or wild plot-twists – it’s a fun and energetic adventure-comedy that’s trying to focus on itself; on the journey, not the destination. In many ways, this film is perhaps breathing the same air as similarly constructed post apocalyptic adventure films like Zombieland (2009) but with perhaps a greater reliance on actor Dylan O’Brien to shoulder the weight of the film’s charisma.
O’Brien does a great job at pulling his weight as this film’s lead, nailing the personality of a nervous and completely useless everyday-guy that’s trying to do some heroic shit and somehow succeeding – reminding us almost of the character of Hughie from the TV Series The Boys. O’brien brings levity and focus to a film that could’ve very easily suffered from a flat and overly serious lead character that huffs and puffs at every moment.
The world that director Michael Matthews and writer Brian Duffield have built here is quite a fascinating one despite its almost daft simplicity – they’ve constructed a world of familiar monsters – simply animals and insects from our own world that have grown much larger and much deadlier. Whereas films like the aptly named Gareth Edwards film Monsters (2010) took a more grounded approach by adding creatures that felt more real, in that weren’t familiar, but rather, more alien. It may seem like a petty thing to discuss, but monsters are hard to get right in movies, very few films succeed – so it’s important to address it when it is done right. Love and Monsters oddly enough, does it right.
The film raises questions regarding its budget, as it is currently posing as a mid-budget blockbuster. It is clear that Matthews VFX and Art Direction team have put in the work for this film. The cinematography utilises interesting shots to maximise the budget and the effectiveness of each scene. The lighting is excellent, creating atmospheres that detail the difference between the underground and surface-level scenes – helping enhance the thematics of the film. CGI is featured heavily in this film and is one of the better straight-to-streaming VFX works I have seen.
The detailed production design for the underground bunkers and the surface-level locations are compelling and convincing – with a specific focus on the production teams use of “eggs” placed all over the surface, in forests and on walls – it’s quite remarkable how such a small production aspect can transform a basic forest into something feels like something may be hiding just behind a tree. Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp produce a generic apocalypse themed score which doesn’t venture from the typical horror-comedy genre.
This wacky addition the post apocalyptic adventure genre is a welcomed one, especially considering it feels like we are currently living in an apocalyptic adventure comedy. Love and Monsters exceeds expectations, providing a genuinely fun adventure that goes beyond what one would expect to be just generic teen fluff.