Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Love and Monsters, on DVD

It turns out classic Toho monster movies did not go far enough. It wasn’t just some stray turtle getting radiated into a mutant monster. It happens to every cold-blooded creature. The worst of it for luckless loser Joel Dawson is that it happens just as he was getting somewhere with his pretty girlfriend. Giant mutants now rule the surface of the Earth, but he is still determined to find her in Michael Matthews’ Love and Monsters, which releases today on DVD.

Much to Dawson’s regret, he was separated from his girlfriend Aimee in the confusion of the apocalypse and both lost their parents during the ensuing carnage. After seven long years underground, Dawson (like the Creek) has finally made radio contact with her in a shelter 85 miles away. He cares about all his shelter-mates, but since he is the only one not paired romantically, he figures it is worth risking the perilous journey to reunite with her. However, he is considered the Don Knotts of his shelter, so nobody gives him much chance.

Fortunately, he soon encounters Clyde Dutton, a crusty old survivalist played by
Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker, so you know he must have a knack for staying alive. Dutton has been caring for a young girl named Minnow (not unlike Newt in Aliens), who does not think much of Dawson’s chances, but she is rather taken with Boy, the stray dog that started following him.

If you are guessing Boy (played by Hero and Dodge) steals the show than you would be correct. Together they give quite an endearing canine performance. The monster design also hits the right tone. There is plenty of gross slithering and secreting business, but they never look too realistic or too fake.

Frankly, Dylan O’Brien’s constant neurotic narration eventually gets exhausting (seriously, sometimes he needs to just shut-up and concentrate on his surroundings). Still, he plays well opposite crusty Rooker, snarky little Ariana Greenblatt (as Minnow), and Jessica Henwick, who shows some impressive action cred as Aimee. Of course, Hero and Dodge (the stunt dog) totally upstage him, but what could he expect.

This is a film Andrew Cuomo would hate, because it tells viewers to stop hiding in their bunkers and take a chance by living in the outside surface world. Disregarding the unforeseen parallels with contemporary life, the message that too much risk-aversion is a danger in itself happens to be a worthy one (but not a very Hollywood one). It is a big step up from Matthews’ last feature, the gritty South African western,
Five Fingers for Marseilles, but he marshals all the special and practical effects quite nimbly. Yet, L&M is really a better movie, because it has more heart and soul.

Normally, we sparingly cover studio releases (mostly from Blumhouse), but when a film grosses $255K in its opening week, it should be indie enough for anyone. In 2020 every theatrical release became a limited release, so how’s that for leveling the playing field? None of the really matters when it comes to judging the merits of a film. In the case of
L&M, it is quite a lot of fun. Recommended for fans of monster movies, Love and Monsters releases today (1/5) on DVD and BluRay.