Love and Monsters is a 2020 American post-apocalyptic adventure film directed by Michael Matthews, with Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen serving as producers. The film stars Dylan O’Brien, Michael Rooker, Ariana Greenblatt and Jessica Henwick. It was released by Paramount Pictures via video on demand and in select theaters on October 16, 2020.

Love and Monsters Plot

After destroying an asteroid headed for Earth, the chemical fallout causes all cold blooded animals to mutate into monsters. During the evacuation of Fairfield, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) is separated from his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick), but promises he’ll find her. Seven years later, Joel has survived and is living in an underground bunker. Others in the colony fight monsters and scavenge supplies but Joel is left behind in the kitchen, as he freezes-up in dangerous situations. Joel makes radio contact with Aimee, learning of her colony and sharing stories of survival. When an ant-monster breaches his colony and another person is killed, Joel sets off on a quest to find Aimee.

Passing through the suburbs Joel is attacked by a giant toad, but is saved by a stray dog. The dog, called Boy, follows Joel on his journey, and warns him against poisonous berries and other dangers. Joel falls into a nest of worm-monsters, but Clyde Dutton (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), rescue him from the “Sand-Gobblers” and scold him for his lack of survival skills. They are heading north, where the colder weather and elevation means less Love and Monsters.

They teach Joel some basic survival skills. Clyde teaches Joel that not all Love and Monsters will attack, showing him a Boulder Snail and saying that “You can always tell in their eyes.”. After some further travel they invite Joel to go with them to the mountains but Joel insist he must find Aimee. As they part ways, Clyde gifts Joel with a grenade.

As Joel continue west, Boy becomes trapped by a giant centipede-monster. Joel freezes, but eventually shoots monster with his crossbow and saves Boy. They shelter in an abandoned motel, and meet a robot named Mav1s (Melanie Zanetti). Mav1s is able to show Joel photos of his parents, and power his radio long enough to contact Aimee. He learns that she is close, and that new survivors have reached their colony and promised to lead them away to safety, but Joel loses contact.

As Mav1s plays music and watches the luminous sky jellies float by, her battery finally dies. In the morning Joel and Boy are attacked by a Queen Sand-Gobbler. They hide but Boy makes noise, giving away their position. Joel kills the Queen with the grenade, but yells at Boy for putting them in danger, and Boy runs away. After swimming across the river Joel is covered in leeches, which poison him and cause hallucinations, but he is rescued before he passes out.

Joel wakes up in Aimee’s colony, where she is the leader and most of the colonists are elderly and dependent on her. Joel is introduced to the new survivors, Cap (Dan Ewing) and his crew. Cap has offered to take the colony to safety on their yacht. Everyone is packing up and having a farewell party. Aimee is glad to see Joel but not ready to restart their relationship. Joel decides to return to his colony and contacts them on the radio, they are pleased he has survived, but the colony has become unsafe and they will have to leave soon in Love and Monsters.

Cap sends Joel some berries, which he recognizes as poisonous. Realizing Cap was lying to them, he rushes to warn Aimee, but everyone is already intoxicated and then he is knocked unconscious. They all awaken tied-up on the beach. Cap reveals his group is not there to help but to steal supplies. Their yacht is not powered by fossil fuel, but towed by a crab-monster that Cap controls with an electrified chain.

Cap sets the crab to feed on the colonists. Joel and Aimee get loose and fight for their lives, Boy returns during battle, and Cap and his crew escape to their yacht. Cap electrocutes the crab to provoke it to attack. Joel has the opportunity to kill the crab, but looks into its eyes, and instead shoots the electrified chain, freeing the crab from Cap’s control. The crab leaves Joel unharmed and instead kills Cap and his team and sinks the yacht.

Joel decides to head back to his colony, and recommends Aimee and her colony head north to the safer colony in the mountains. They share a goodbye kiss, reigniting Aimee’s love for Joel, and she tells him she’ll find him. Joel treks all the way back to find his original colony and his friends are still alive. They too decide to head north. Joel broadcasts his story and survival tips on the radio, inspiring other colonies to take to the surface. As everyone heads north, Clyde and Minnow, alive and well on the mountaintop, wonder if Joel will survive the next journey.

Love and Monsters Cast

  • Dylan O’Brien as Joel Dawson
  • Jessica Henwick as Aimee, Joel’s girlfriend from before the apocalypse
  • Michael Rooker as Clyde Dutton, a survival expert
  • Dan Ewing as Cap
  • Ariana Greenblatt as Minnow
  • Ellen Hollman as Dana
  • Tre Hale as Rocko
  • Pacharo Mzembe as Ray
  • Senie Priti as Karen
  • Amali Golden as Ava
  • Melanie Zanetti as Mav1s
  • Donnie Baxter as Parker

Love and Monsters Production

In June 2012, it was announced that Paramount Pictures was developing the film Monster Problems, with Shawn Levy producing, based on a spec script by Brian Duffield. It was described as a post-apocalyptic road movie in the vein of Mad Max and Zombieland with a John Hughes-esque love story.

In October 2018, it was announced that Dylan O’Brien was in talks to star. By March 2019, Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt had joined O’Brien, with Michael Matthews directing the film. In April 2019, it was announced that Jessica Henwick had joined the cast. Also in April, Australian actor Dan Ewing joined the Love and Monsters film in a supporting role. Principal photography started in Gold Coast on March 25, 2019, and ended in May 2019.

The visual effects for the film were done by The Mill and MPC LA.

Love and Monsters Release

Love and Monsters was originally slated to release on March 6, 2020, but in October 2019, the release date was moved to April 17, 2020. In February 2020, it was moved again, to February 12, 2021.

In August 2020, Paramount announced that due to COVID-19 pandemic the film would be released via video on demand on October 16, 2020. The film’s title was changed from Monster Problems to Love and Monsters. The film also played in 387 theaters for the weekend of October 16-18, 2020.

Love and Monsters Reception

Box office and VOD

In its debut weekend, Love and Monsters was the number one most rented film on FandangoNow and Apple TV. The film also played in 387 theaters alongside its VOD release, and grossed $255,000 in its opening weekend.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the Love and Monsters film has an approval rating of 93% based on 55 reviews, with an average rating of 7.20/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “Led by a charming star turn from Dylan O’Brien, Love and Monsters peers into the apocalypse and finds an action-adventure with surprising emotional depth.” On Metacritic it has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on reviews from 11 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.

Jessica Kiang of Variety called it: “A fun if forgettable family-friendly adventure comedy set in a “monsterpocalypse.” Who said the end of the world had to be a downer?” Kiang notes that the film is based on an original script but feels familiar as if it was adapted from existing material because it fits into the coming-of age genre and references various other films such as I Am Legend, A Boy and His Dog, Zombieland, Tremors and Stand by Me. John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “The movie’s last act offers complications both expected and surprising. For the most part, it satisfies, especially in what proves to be the pic’s most elaborate action sequence.”

Review:

Dylan O’Brien’s charisma goes the distance in the fleeting, but fun enough apocalypse adventure “Love and Monsters,” which has the actor navigating an obstacle course of convenient twists, unabashedly cute characters, and mega-sized creepy crawlies. He’s done well in a school of acting that has alums like Adam Brody and pre-Lars von Trier Shia LaBeouf—the art of being a little neurotic, with endearing self-deprecation taking the place of any stable cool—and this is an excellent display of O’Brien’s infectious imagination and comic energy.

Plus, director Michael Matthews places him in a vivid apocalypse in which we’re the ones in danger of being squished, as towering centipedes, snails, and slugs and more have wiped out 95% of the human population.

It’s a funny start then, how O’Brien begins “Love and Monsters” as a type of sidekick to a whole team of sexually active, bad-ass apocalyptic fighters, and he’s the chef. Vengeful, mutated animals might have been created from missiles that tried to shoot down a massive asteroid seven years ago, but some things in life are constant—some folk shack up with others quickly than others, and some people are much better at facing danger head-on. And then there’s O’Brien’s lonely Joel, whose main skill is that he makes a good minestrone soup.

After he makes contact with an old love named Aimee (Jessica Henwick), who lives in a different colony 80 miles away, Joel decides to tackle the unknown danger of the outside world, and leave behind this makeshift family who seem to be in their own action movie. Everyone warns against it, knowing that he freezes when he’s been face-to-slimy-face with the monsters that have previously tried to break into the colony, but fear can be so tiring. Credit to “Love and Monsters,” it makes an intriguing hero flaw out of simply being too scared. Their survival of advice to Joel is a stern, “Don’t fight. Just run and hide.”

By sheer determination to be with someone he first said “I love you” to right before the apocalypse, O’Brien’s Joel navigates his way through a new world, passing along cliff-sides that have been turned into honeycomb, and through suburbs that have been swallowed whole by the greenery of nature. While walking through a backyard, he’s attacked by a massive frog in a swimming pool, and is saved from its tongue by a quick-witted dog named Boy.

It’s absolutely not the last time the movie will use convenient timing to save our hero, but it’s charming because of the dog, and the tight action sequence that unites them. The “banter” that O’Brien shares with the dog after is a delicate expression of Joel’s loneliness, and amicability. Boy is a good dog, and a good listener.

Later on, Joel meets two more charming souls, who add character to the saga and not much else. But they share a good comedic chemistry, with Joel still as the clumsy underdog, who learns from the tough-as-nails kid Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) about how to fire a crossbow, and Clyde (Michael Rooker) the secrets of surviving day by day. During their travels, Michaels spikes the goofiness with a few tense moments, not so much from grand surprise, but a festering dread. Especially as Joel’s flashbacks to seven years ago depict a gruesome end to everyone’s loved ones, “Love and Monsters” has a vital sense of danger, mixed with its interest in using O’Brien for some frantic slapstick.

The script by Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson (with story credit to Duffield) staples together its adventure together using voiceover and a whole batch of characters’ good timing, but O’Brien’s Joel is a strong guide: he’s optimistic, excitable, and always likable. O’Brien helps give the movie a heart, and creates the movie’s need for connection in ways beyond finding his dream girl—he shares an unexpectedly sweet scene with a talking robot, which gives a sense of gravity that helps the later moments when he’s sprinting from an appropriately freaky centipede. “Love and Monsters” has a winning sincerity that helps it move along, even if you become more aware of just how narrow it is.

Underneath everything, “Love and Monsters” has the feeling of a director auditioning for something of a “Transformers” movie, especially in its third act. The final showdown feels like a tacked-on calling card, but it’s another smoothly executed set-piece of people scrambling during a monster attack, with some hand-to-hand combat thrown in the mix. It’s also a good moment for the film’s sporadic use of practical effects, when all of the crags, slime, and moss on a monster makes them seem even larger in close-up, something you just don’t get from the other CGI creatures that chase people around in this story.

But even more than for director Matthews, this is O’Brien’s showcase. He makes you believe that Joel is sprinting for his life from some fantastic beasts, and that throwing himself into an apocalypse to combat loneliness is noble enough. “Love and Monsters” openly tells you it’s not overthinking a single component, but with the spectacle of O’Brien’s athletic work, that’s not exactly the end of the world.

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