Love and Monsters (2020)
Dir: Michael Matthews
Who is in love?
A young man called Joel living in a small post-apocalyptic survivor colony in an underground bunker, sheltering from the monsters roaming the Earth.
What sort of monsters?
Nuclear fallout has led to mutated insects and other creatures, things that were once small and only mildly scary to those who dislike bugs, are now huge, destructive and deadly. The creature designs are therefore recognisable as what they originally were, giant frogs, snails, ants and suchlike, though they’re made far more monstrous, and a serious threat when Joel decides to depart the colony on a journey.
Where does Joel have to go?
He realises that he’s ‘only’ 85 miles from his long-lost girlfriend’s colony, but after 7 years the world is greatly overgrown, so he’s not able to drive, this will have to be a perilous solo journey on foot. However, Joel isn’t very brave, or skilled, so his chances of survival are slim.
How does he get on?
That’s the point of the film, so I won’t spoil it for you. The poster and trailer do give away a few things, such as that he’s befriended by a dog called Boy, who becomes his companion and is smarter than he is, and together they also meet a few other survivors who teach Joel a few things.
When was this released?
In the U.S. and some other places, this was released on VOD in October 2020 and it has pretty much stayed in the top 10 rented and bought titles ever since. Now it’s been expanded to other regions, and available on Netflix in many places too, so reaching an even bigger audience than ever before, and with the sustained interest and positive reviews, it’s gone straight into the top ten titles on there too.
Why has this done so well?
It’s fun, presenting, not a bleak dystopian future that verges on horror, but more a comedy adventure. It’s almost like a PG-13 Zombieland vibe at times. It’s frequently funny, and with Dylan O’Brien in the lead, it is going for the teen, YA crowd. Plus, the story is about venturing outside after prolonged sheltering indoors, which could be miserable if handled pessimistically in a horror or thriller genre film, but in this exciting, funny adventure, it’s got a sense of optimism that’s clearly appealed to many people right now.
In any other year, this might be the kind of film that would be overshadowed by bigger-budgeted sci-fi films with the highest-budget effects, but this year, it’s one of the few films remotely in that genre to be released. So, this has managed to get one of the five nominations for ‘Best Visual Effects’ at the Academy Awards! The integration with what’s CG and practical is really good, and there are moments of interaction where characters are being thrown about by monsters, where wire work and all sorts of other techniques have had to be used to make the monsters convincing, which is brilliantly handled and deserving of the place on this year’s nominee list. I don’t know it’ll win, there may be more subtle or impressive effects that could garner votes but the filmmakers probably don’t care too much, they’ll be thrilled to say this was an Oscar nominee, as they work on the inevitable, and quite well-earnt, sequel.