Think the Zombieland films would be improved if each joke landed with a thud? Love and Monsters is the movie for you.
Despite a creative postapocalyptic enemy — giant mutated animals, the result of chemical fallout from missiles used to destroy a meteor headed for Earth — the second feature from South African filmmaker Michael Matthews is marred by lousy writing from Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson, and a flaccid lead performance from Dylan O’Brien (American Assassin), whose quest to launch another series after the Maze Runner movies continues to falter.
The screenwriters try painfully hard to establish the quirkiness of O’Brien’s Joel via awkward sayings and his overall ineptitude in a colony of fellow survivors — annoying qualities compounded by his running voice-over that’s full of doomsday clichés. With such an unappealing character leading the way, Joel’s risky mission to reunite with long-separated girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick, On the Rocks) at her colony is all but impossible to care about.
While the addition of a faithful canine companion adds some appeal to Joel’s journey, it’s not enough to balance out poorly executed narrow escapes from massive carnivorous beasts and a would-be cheeky run-in with savvy survivalists Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt, Avengers: Infinity War) that suggests humor has become extinct in this decimated world.
Amid these snoozy details, it’s easy to miss that Love and Monsters is actually competently shot, hinting that at least Matthews knows what he’s doing from time to time. The end result is unlikely to inspire a sequel — or confidence in O’Brien and the writing team — but the director seems worth following.
Available to rent via Amazon Video, iTunes, and other streaming services