Dylan O'Brien is brilliantly cast in this fun if somewhat forgettable romp, set in a world where giant creatures wreak havoc
Hollywood's tendency toward nihilistic end of the world movies has left the genre as something of a downer by default. Perhaps that's what makes Love and Monsters, the title of which keys you into its breezy, self-aware take on the apocalypse, such a refreshing viewing experience. Even as it struggles to fill its runtime, at the mercy of a big concept and a small budget, it's hard to resist the optimistic energy and charming characters.
Love and Monsters is set seven years after a global armageddon that wiped out 95 percent of the population, after the fallout from a meteorite mutated the world's animals, rendering them big, terrifying and aggressive. Remarkably this is not based on a pre-existing property, though it certainly has the air of an obscure Japanese video game or an underground comic book series. Instead it's the work of writer-director Michael Matthews, whose only other credit is the low-budget South African thriller Five Fingers for Marseilles.
This film's success feels mostly indebted to the inspired casting of Dylan O'Brien, an actor most viewers probably won't be familiar with (though if they are, that'll be through the Maze Runner series). There's something of a younger Shia LaBeouf's scrappy, self-deprecating schtick in O'Brien's line deliveries, which reveals him as that rare actor capable of playing annoying without actually being annoying to watch. For him, this feels like a stepping stone to greater things.
The monster battles themselves are hit and miss – you can certainly tell there is an effort to animate as little as possible, with certain decapitations or kills taking place off screen. The CG the movie does display is impressive, though (it even earned the visual effects team an unexpected Oscar nomination, the results of which are still pending), and there's an especially fun showdown against a giant crab in the final act.
While the scenes between the monster showdowns feel more like padding, there is something so sweet and charming about the whole affair that it's easy to forgive – a breath of fresh air in a landscape of cynically minded blockbusters that revel in mass destruction and sideline their characters in favour of CG excess. Sequels welcome.
Love and Monsters is now streaming on Netflix.Where to watch