Joel was only 17 when the world as he knew it ended. He was enjoying the summer with his girlfriend—the delightful and beautiful Aimee—and simply cruising along through life without a care in the world.
But then that crazy asteroid came hurtling toward the Earth. And the world’s nations collectively blew those space rocks to dust. And the fallout settled back around the planet. And every beast, fish and insect grew into giant distorted monsters. And 95% of the human population was killed within a year. And the few remaining survivors found themselves hunkered down in subterranean colonies.
Now, seven years later, Joel isn’t handling his new life all that well. He’s kinda the only single dude in a bunker full of couples. On top of that, he really doesn’t have the right skill sets for post-apocalyptic living: He’s lousy with a crossbow, for instance. And even if he were a sharpshooter, he freezes in the face of danger.
In fact, his only real contribution to the survivor group is his ability to whip up a goulash or stew out of some canned tomatoes and a roasted side of giant flatworm. Mmm, yummy!
So that’s why, after miraculously connecting via radio with his lost love Aimee, Joel decides to hike the 85 miles to her colony’s bunker. At first, his friends think he’s joking. And then they think he’s crazy. And when he steps out the door … they’re pretty sure he’s monster-chow.
Joel, however, is determined. He knows nothing about this new environment he’s traversing. For that matter, he isn’t even sure which direction is west. But he’s going to give it a go. He’s going to make it to Aimee.
It’s only after trudging for a while, and almost being eaten by an enormous five-eyed toad, that he pauses to think: You know … I never asked her if she has a boyfriend.
Joel’s convinced himself that he’s not very useful to the group of survivors in his bunker, and far from needed. But in time, he comes to realize just how much he cares for those friends, and he learns more about how much they care for him, too.
Joel meets two other people along his journey who welcome him. They save his life at one point, and they teach him about the creatures and plants around him, showing him the necessary skills needed to survive. Joel shares that collected knowledge with others via a book he creates.
Throughout Joel’s monster-infested journey, the film stresses the value of friendship and points to the strength we can gain from others in our times of need. It also encourages self-sacrifice and the importance of taking risks in pursuit of personal growth. When the apocalyptic crisis begins, for instance, we see in flashback that Joel’s parents put their lives on the line to make sure he survived. And years later, both he and Aimee make similarly sacrficial choices in an effort to aid others in need.
[Spoiler Warning] And even though things don’t ultimately turn out the way he hoped with Aimee, Joel tells her that he is very thankful that she inspired him to take his trip because of all that he learned along the way.
We see Joel and Aimee kiss in a flashback and then again in the present. In fact, in that flashback scene things look like they might get much more intimate before the couple is interrupted by a public emergency alarm.
While in the bunker, Joel has trouble sleeping because of the frisky couples around him. We hear one lovemaking pair behind a curtain and see the bare legs of another couple who are lying entwined on a bed.
Joel gets liberally thumped about during his perilous journey on the creature-plagued surface. He falls down hillsides and into pits and is dragged about or sent flying by large monsters of many types.
Our intrepid hero faces giant snails, centipedes, crabs, ants, spiders, frogs and various other odd creatures that burrow through, leap out or skitter quickly over the ground. These gruesome-looking beasties, generously appointed with rows of sharp teeth, attack Joel and other humans, but we only see three people actually consumed in such attacks. (And, bloodlessly, I should add.)
Joel drags himself out of a murky pool and realizes that he has large leeches all over his arms, neck and torso, He pulls them off, leaving behind wounds from their small sharp teeth.
A huge monster attacks and sinks a large yacht. And a quick-moving burrowing monstrosity called a Queen Sandgobbler launches itself toward a man just as he tosses a grenade, blowing the creature into a storm of goopy chunks. We see quite a lot of gushing goo and dismembered parts from various vanquished beasties.
Past creature attacks leave behind the remnants of broken vehicles and shattered buildings. And in several areas, Joel crunches over the bones of human victims. A woman uses her handmade “arm cannon” to blow up a radio tower and to launch explosive shells in a number of directions. Other people use crossbows, spears and other melee weapons.
Some 15 s-words and one mixing of God’s name with “d–n” are joined by multiple uses each of the words “a–,” “h—,” “b–ch” and “b–tard.” There are also a couple crude references to male genitalia and about 10 exclamations of “oh my god!”
Joel is poisoned by the venom of large leaches that bite him. He staggers about and nearly passes out before chewing the leaves of a fern that’s laced with a natural antivenom.
Upon reaching Aimee’s small colony, Joel meets a guy who makes his own beer. He’s given a glass of the booze with a plate of food (though he doesn’t drink it). Later, Aimee and others appear quite intoxicated by the stuff. Several tumble over and pass out.
A few people lie in an attempt to steal the food and belongings of others. And one group of devious folks plots to ensure that some other people are killed by a large monster.
Love and Monsters is the latest premium feature film—following in the footsteps of Trolls World Tour, Scoob! and Mulan—to forgo a planned theatrical release and spill its guts via video-on-demand. And let me tell ya’, there are plenty of those monstery, post-apocalyptic guts here to spill.
That said, this definitely isn’t the latest rendition of some flesh-eating zombie pic. Love and Monsters embraces a much more lighthearted and less nasty vibe than that. It feels very much like a modern take on a Ray Harryhausen stop-motion creature feature mixed with comic pratfalls and boy-and-his-dog life lessons.
Thematically, the film encourages viewers to stop burying their heads. To learn from their mistakes. To rely on their friends and loved ones. And, of course, to get out there and be the best monster-killers they can be. And all of those lessons are the sort that we can take to heart in real life. ’Cause, hey, if there’s one thing our world is full of these days, it’s a lot of scary and chaotic stories that we don’t want to roar in our direction.
In fact, if this film didn’t have quite so many s-words and other crudities exploding about in the midst of its gushing creature goop, it might have been a dandy COVID-apocalypse tonic for young and old alike. But despite Love and Monsters’ feel-good vibe, it still has a few too many foul teeth and rough edges for the average family room gathering.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.