Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Love and Monsters is not an offensive film. And by those standards it is indefensible. Absolutely gutless, flaccid and assured in all the wrong ways. It belongs to the genre of hyperactive science fiction films that convey their entire “high-concept” fiction in a lightning quick monologue voice-over usually accompanied by an animation or a montage (in this case both!) like Guns Akimbo or Mayhem. Seriously compromised films in concept, tone and structure, vehicles that baffle the mind of any that should befall them for their sheer, unapologetic meaninglessness. Conscious of their own frivolity, these films (and the makers behind them) thrust themselves towards a dubious objective: self-awareness which is never justified by actual understanding. That is to say, these filmmakers do not know what they are doing because they believe themselves to know exactly what they are doing. Roger Corman was Roger Corman for a reason: he was brilliant. There is no mistaking any of these genre filmmakers with the genuine enthusiasm, budgetary constraints or cinematic complexity that Corman and his indie cohorts had mastered. There is a notable reluctance towards sleaze, actual provocation on a theoretical, technical and political front, for Guns Akimbo, Mayhem and Love and Monsters being genre films outside the studio system they are bracingly plain in act-structure, dialogue and characterization. There is nothing distinct about them, they fall into the Wittengstinein notion of “familial resemblance”, no single essence linking these films just a series of overlapping traits that are all unbearable.
To begin with a positive, the main character commits, played by Dylan O’ Brian (heartthrob of Maze Runner-fame), the role is completely paint-by-the-numbers, frustratingly predictable in how readable his arc is: he is the schlub who by the end of the movie, overcomes his lack of bravery just to get the girl, it’s supremely lame. With that said, O’Brian hams it up, like a modern Jack Lemmon, though he is consistently overacting, and steering a bit too much into the skid, it cannot be said that he doesn’t have a blast doing so, kudos to him for enjoying the inane material, because as it becomes increasingly grating he is the one lifeline offered to the audience to indicate that the film, is any way shape or form, is supposed to resemble something fun.
Because it’s not. Instead we receive humiliating, weepy, post-apocalyptic monologues, forcing tragedy to the forefront when we first have to give a shit, if there is any hope for these moments translating. So they don’t, not Michael Rooker, not the child, not his love interest, can arouse any sense of legitimate care in the viewers, even the punchlines and themes decay before your eyes because it could be any film with this basic set-up. Not that playing it safe or restraining ambition is necessarily a bad thing, sometimes asceticism is the key to a films success, but that is seldom the case in genre features, while the film probably thought itself “witty” and “clever”, it never quite strikes the shocking and bombastic tone it so strives for or believes it has. The film stops just short of a laugh track, each scene leaves just enough room for a quip and a one-liner, it leaves everything feeling flat and suspended, unresolved because it never really started.
I bring up Corman, not just because I am currently entrenched in his cinema, but also because he represents a kind of ideal for independent filmmaking in the United States, represented by this maxim: there is no master but my own, I am my own master. He subverts capitalism by reaping it’s rewards personally, he restores the money to the hands of the worker, because filmmaking first and foremost is work, and he amsasses money for the sole purpose of continuing his own production, not the gears of the system, but his own. Love and Monsters is guilty of answering the call of the master, that extends from the herd and has only become the hierarchical norm because it stands to increase profits, and remove money from the hands of proletariat and bourgeoisie youth alike. Which means it constantly conforms and contorts itself to satisfy the aesthetics of my generation; characterized by arrogance, impatience, frivolity, immaturity and a profound lack of self. This movie is devoid of things to say, which is perhaps for the better, because if it did have anything to say, it would be debilitatingly annoying.
We watched this movie on thanksgiving: my father, one of my best friends Askhat, and myself. My father actually enjoyed it quite a bit while Askhat and myself could not have been more disinterested, though we watched the whole thing, partially for this review, and just a bit to satiate our morbid curiosity, I couldn’t help but recognize how much producers, writers and directors are missing the mark. This movie is probably intended for the tween-audience fueled by social media (which is to say it’s meant for idiots, and if this offends you, you are absolutely one of them, you should not care about a twenty-one year old dissing social media or this film, or teenagers who are actually not intelligent, or even to think I am talking about you, you narcissist, has nothing to do with you or me, objectivity persists in spite of your feelings so, again, nothing pejorative, stupidity is quantifiable and we all participate in it’s traditions, pettiness being my favorite of it’s habits, so to contradict myself: get as mad as you want, be upset, get petty, idiot) and I assume some have even enjoyed it, but the fact it was pleasing an older man in his mid-40’s and not the two twenty-somethings watching the movie is indicative of how stale and trite this film is, though it’s filled with various nerdy in-jokes and references to a pre-apocalyptic world, the script feels more like a 1980’s adventure comedy than it does evoke any contemporary models, so while it’s populated with images, beats and sentiment that reflect a younger sensibility, the movie is film school sausage: grinding, assorted meats put into a thin package. So I’m not mad, just disappointed that this is what people think we want and that this is what we get for the fruits of our labor; those who adore genre cinema, have cultivated, discussed and engendered it’s proliferation should abandon their entitlement towards the territory they love, become nomadic, our pastures now belong to the herds.
Couldn’t find a place to flow this into the review but it’s worthing noting:
And if we are to remain on “good things” for a moment, the special effects and monster designs are truly terrifying, might be the fear of bugs I have but seeing creepy crawlies rendered so largely in such vivid detail was horrendous, in the centipede scene I actually had to look away from the screen.