Fallout for Fun
Love and Monsters (2020): 8 out of 10: After the chemical fallout from an attempt to divert a meteorite causes cold-blooded creatures to grow massively in size, a young man Joel (Dylan O’Brien) hides in an underground bunker with a like-minded group. He then decides to travel seven days to reach his former girlfriend, Aimee (Jessica Henwick) even though he has no survival skills and freezes in the face of danger.
The Good: Love and Monsters is a very pleasant surprise. A fun romp that works much better than the sum of its parts might suggest. One of the better post-apocalypse movies over the last few years, Love and Monsters, is also unerringly upbeat (A rarity in the genre).
The gigantic monsters are fun with a pleasant mixture of CGI and practical effects (Particularly on the giant crab boss fight which is the most impressive giant crab since that historical reenactment from Genji: Days of the Blade at the Sony E3 2006 press conference)
The Giant Crab is not the only (possibly accidental) video game reference on tap. We have Land Sharks right out of 2003’s Armed and Dangerous and tons of Fallout references from the vault they are living in to the protagonist meeting with Dogmeat (Who turns out to be a very good boy indeed).
The movie also has some fun side characters (Michael Rooker, Ariana Greenblatt) who seemed to have wandered over from the set of an Asylum mockbuster of Zombieland. Love and Monsters’ tight script makes sure that the survival hints they give him all come into play during the finale like a Chekhov’s gun shop.
The Bad: Like my recent experience with The Artful Escape, what makes Love and Monsters so refreshing is exactly what some will see as holding it back. The movie successfully flirts with the honestly common sense idea that seven years after the apocalypse and living in another vault, Aimee may have simply moved on with her life. Particularly since she had no idea that Joel was still alive and as far as the movie shows, their relationship seemed to be recently started dating status rather than some travelling heaven and earth What Dreams May Come relationship.
The movie, though, sticks with its optimistic tone and true… like? conquers all. Love and Monsters is a film where the bad guys are cartoonishly incompetent and should wear T-shirts that say “I am going to betray you. Ask me how.”
To put is more succinctly, Love and Monsters is a movie where you don’t have to worry about the dog.
At least Zombieland killed off Bill Murray.
The Ugly: Much is made early in the film of Joel’s general uselessness in a fight and his inability to survive. (He freezes when danger approaches.) It is a good character arc as he overcomes his fears to go on this great journey. The movie does a solid by not giving him skills he certainly should not posses.
On the other hand, his ability to survive the encounter with the Land Shark (Or Graboid from Tremors, or Queen Sand-Gobbler per the movie) by throwing a grenade in its mouth is not the only time he survives through sheer improbable luck. (He survives the final crab themed boss fight when the dog shows up Like Han Solo at the end of Star Wars.)
So his lesson at the end is that if he could survive anyone can and we should all leave the relative safety of the vaults, certainly should be followed with a lot of survivors being disemboweled in various horrific ways.
In Conclusion: I had fun. I really had fun. Love and Monsters is a pleasant surprise and a decent monster movie to boot. Does everything work perfectly? No. But there are a lot of really nice touches like when the members of the Joel’s vault give him a map so he can find his way to his girlfriend and only later he finds they all signed the back with words of friendship, love and encouragement. Sometimes I need more stories like this in my life.
I have to say of the many, many ways of doing an exposition info dump: a sketchbook is an excellent choice.
The Sketchbook even comes with an in universe explanation.
And if you wanted to explain that your best friend Todd and his cat were killed by his pet goldfish, I can’t think of a better method.
The Sketchbook is also an excellent tool to reinforce the foreshadowing that Love and Monsters is so fond of.
Pro Tip for tourists. This is not what a duck boat is.
Is that supposed to be a sketch of Jessica Henwick that Dylan O’Brien did from memory in the background there?
The red cloth is a very important plot point for the first half of the film. And yet is clearly forgotten at some point. Perhaps Boy learned to move on somewhere offscreen as Joel was trying to rekindle his high school romance.
There is a very serious sadness for Boy as his owner clearly died recently as Joel finds him in good shape and in a well-kept home.
Still, the dog pining over his previous owner’s scent threatens to overwhelm the rest of the story with melancholy. I know it gets me in the feels.
The likely killer of Boy’s owner which would explain the lack of body.
Between life in the vault and Joel and Boy travelling the suburbs looking for survivors and trying to make thier way to another vault. This is basically Fallout 4 in movie form with mutated monsters instead of radioactive ones.
Though the cows in Fallout (Called Brahmin ) have two heads.
Another possible Fallout touch is the somewhat anachronistic humanoid robots.
Joel accidentally discovers a sewer level.
Fallout influences aside, I am also seeing a bit of Demon’s Souls with the helpful warnings left by the previous players.
And like any good video game, we have a final boss fight with an obvious weak point.
A close up our our landshark all teeth and Lovecraftian tentacles.
Love and Monsters certainly does not lack in scenery porn.
Some of which are very creative, such as the giant insect colonies on the side of this cliff.
Even the monsters themselves get into the scenery porn act.
And love also gets its scenery porn moment in the sun.
Of course we have a ridiculous amount of cute dog and child (Ariana Greenblatt) pictures.
In fact, we have way too many good screenshots. Of late I have been trying to whittle down the screenshots in my reviews to make them more readable, but good lord Love and Monsters is gorgeous.