After an environmental disaster, insects and reptiles have grown to gargantuan proportions, and wiped out most of humanity. The remaining humans live in underground bunkers. Seven years ago, Joel got separated from his girlfriend Aimee during the catastrophe. He learns that she lives in another bunker about a week’s march away, and decides to take the dangerous journey to be reunited with her. During his trip he encounters many friendly characters, but also murderous monsters.
Post-apocalyptic movies usually operate with a grim premise, tragedy and dark characters. Comedic takes on the genre have been made but usually still had their share of cynicism and/or strong violence. One reason for this is the assumption that whoever survives the apocalypse and its aftermath likely represents the worst aspects of humanity. Certainly a case can be made for this point of view, but what if it was not like that? What if the survivors were all good and caring people, and optimistic despite the hardships of living in the ruins of civilization? Love and Monsters takes the latter approach, and turns out to be a complete success.
The movie title was aptly chosen, as it is about exactly two things: love and monsters. The story is simple, and hiking trips through a post-apocalyptic world are not a new feature, so Love and Monsters will not win a prize for originality. The movie takes many elements from genre classics such as A Boy And His Dog, but also more recent works such as The Colony and Annihilation. What makes it different from all his predecessors is that it has an extraordinarily light-hearted vibe. Most dialogues are witty and funny, with a few melancholic moments in between. The characters are slightly exaggerated, but likable, and the movie radiates a warmth rarely seen in a genre movie. I will go as far as say that Love and Monsters is in the best tradition of masterpieces such as Back to the Future, The Last Starfighter, and The Princess Bride. These movies provided great family entertainment within the Fantasy/Sci-Fi genre, and had a thoroughly uplifting vibe.
Production-wise there’s absolutely nothing to complain. The indoor shots in the bunker have a good atmosphere, the outdoor shots of the wildlands are beautiful, and the special effects for the often cute, but mostly dangerous monsters are more than decent. There’s plenty of action that packs a good punch, as Joel frequently is confronted with hungry creatures crossing his path. The actors all deliver good performance, and genre veteran Michael Rooker’s role as outdoor survivalist seems to be a bit of a nod to his cult movie Tremors. There are no side plots and useless gimmicks, the movie is pleasantly focused on Joel’s journey to find Aimee. Love and Monsters also carries the simple, but relevant message that it’s fun to get out of your (metaphoric) bunker every once in a while and be outside, as there’s always an adventure waiting around the corner.
Love and Monsters provides perfect entertainment in an unusual post-apocalyptic template. It’s a humorous and charming adventure with an optimism that can is rarely found in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi genre these days.