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Film / Love and Monsters

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"I really didn't have your typical upbringing. I mean, I did at first and then the world ended."
"I love you guys, but there's one person in this world who ever truly made me happy, and she's only 85 miles away. And I'm gonna go see her."
Joel Dawson
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Love and Monsters is an American monster adventure film, starring Dylan O'Brien, Jessica Henwick, Dan Ewing, Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt. It was release simultaneously on VOD and in select theaters on October 16, 2020.

After a successful attempt to stop an asteroid from hitting the Earth, the remains of the explosion drift down and mutate all cold-blooded and invertebrate life into monsters. Teen lovers Joel and Aimee are separated by the apocalypse and vow to one day again find each other. Humanity escapes to underground colonies.

Seven years later, Joel is living in a colony and speaking to his girlfriend on the radio at another colony. He decides to brave the surface to return to her.

Not to be confused with the Doctor Who episode of the same name.

Previews: Trailer.


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This film provides examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Subverted. Joel remained in love with Aimee for seven years after they were separated by the apocalypse, Aimee moved on and had a significant relationship of her own that ended when her partner died. However, the end of the film confirms there are still sparks between them, and it ends with a Maybe Ever After — they can give it another shot if they find each other again.
  • Action Duo: Action Trio, but the sentiment is the same. Action Survivor Joel tags along with more experienced post-apocalyptic survivors Clyde and Minnow, and learns some essential monster hunting skills from them along the way.
  • Actor Allusion: It's not the first time Michael Rooker plays a survivor in an post-apocalyptic world fighting horrible creatures.
  • After the End: The story is set after nuclear meteor dust rained down on the planet, mutating all cold-blooded animals into huge monsters that caused the end of human civilization. Humanity survived, but in scattered, primarily underground colonies.
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  • Alone Among the Couples: Everyone else in Joel's survival bunker has entered a romantic relationship with someone and he has to listen to them having sex a lot.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted. Joel initially thinks all monsters are vicious predators who just want to eat humanity, but learn from Clyde and Minnow that some of them just want to be left alone.
  • Amphibian at Large: The first monster Joel encounters is a huge mutant bullfrog with stalked eyes and a long tongue that tries to eat him. It tries to chase after him, but it's so rotund he and Boy easily outrun it.
  • An Aesop:
    • Don't be afraid to see the world. If you learn more about what's out there, you'll be both more enriched and better prepared for survival.
    • The latter third of the movie also gives us the classic moral to be kind to people around you with a good dose of Humans Are the Real Monsters. The world may be dangerous, but if you know how to work around its hazards, it's bearable. The real threat is people acting selfishly and without empathy for others.
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary scope, societal collapse. The monsters range over the whole planet, as humanity hides underground.
  • Arm Cannon: Dana has a gun attached to her arm.
  • Badass Adorable: Minnow is a little girl who loves stuffed animals, nail polish, wears jelly bracelets, squees when she's gifted lipstick, loves dogs and is also a skilled in archery (a pink bow at that), has encyclopedic knowledge of monsters and can handle grenades with no issue.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Grizzled Hunter of Monsters Clyde and his ten-year-old companion Minnow (although she's no wimp).
  • Bait-and-Switch: The trio's encounter with the boulder snail. Clyde looks freaked out and asks Joel to keep quiet and hand over his shirt, while Minnow looks on in concern, and Joel starts panicking silently. After Clyde deposits the shirt on the snail, they both exclaim "Goodbye Boulder Snail!" as it leaves, much to Joel's confusion. They then tell him that Boulder Snails are actually harmless and friendly.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Aimee is caring, helpful and kind but when she was pissed against the fake saviors enough to tackle Rocko and fight Dana despite her lack of fighting skills.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: One of the most common type of monster (since, obviously, insects are the numerous animal). Joel encounters a strange arthropod creature in the bunker, passes by a nest of giant grubs, ends up stalked by an enormous beetle, barely survives an attack by a huge centipede, and the pirates at the end have a ten-ton crab under their control.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Twice with Boy, the first time to save Joel from a toad monster and the second time to distract Cap's Giant Enemy Crab just long enough for Joel to turn the battle around.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Cap acts nice and supportive towards the colony Aimee is caring for, but it soon becomes clear that his intentions are far from altruistic.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Joel is reunited and rekindles his relationship with Aimee, but they have to go their separate ways due to their connections to their respective colonies. Joel's broadcast also inspires colonists worldwide to come out of their underground bunkers and learn to survive on the surface world.
  • Black Comedy Pet Death: Inverted. In the prologue, Joel explains how his friend Todd was killed by his own (mutated) pet goldfish. Played straight, however, with the fact that said goldfish also ate the cat.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Clyde's various survival tips, including instructions on how to handle the different kinds of monsters, proves useful at a much later time.
    • He and Minnow mention how to spot a Sand-Gobbler Queen: by a large fin-like appendage that slices through the ground like a Threatening Shark. It's also the grenade he gives Joel as a parting gift that allows him to kill the Queen that attacks him.
    • He mentions a certain type of fern contains an antivenom, which saves Joel's life when he is beset by parasitic, hallucinogenic leeches.
    • It's how Joel realizes that Cap's story of a lizard monster climbing a wall he was defending is a lie, because among Clyde's advice is the statement that the lizards can't climb.
    • From the same discussion, "You can always tell from their eyes." It's how Joel realizes that the crab monster controlled by Cap is not normally violent towards people, prompting him to free it which seals the raiders' doom.
    • The last rule is to always follow his instincts. Something he inadvertently had been doing since the beginning when he had a bad feeling about Cap and his team which he himself mistook for jealousy.
  • Chekhov's Gift: The grenade that Clyde gives Joel when they part ways is later used to kill the Sand-Gobbler Queen.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The berries that Boy warns Joel not to eat, and which are later confirmed to be poisonous. When Cap sends Joel a bowl of them, Joel recognizes them from earlier and realizes that Cap is not acting in the colony's best interests.
  • Colony Drop: Narrowly averted by the destruction of the asteroid, but with unforeseen consequences: the chemicals from the rockets that destroyed the meteor drifted back to earth, causing mutations in all cold-blooded creatures.
  • Cool Old Guy: Clyde, a tough-as-nails traveler who teaches Joel how to survive and cares for a young girl.
  • Dark Action Girl: Dana is easily the best fighter of the looters and listens to their victims' screaming with complete indifference.
  • Deer in the Headlights: Joel at the beginning whenever he encounters monsters. He grows out of it.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Literally with the Giant Enemy Crab that Cap enslaved, which devours him and his crew after Joel frees it from its leash.
  • Dramedy: The film strikes a balance between comedy and drama.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Downplayed somewhat, but the film still ends on a hopeful note after all that Joel and humanity as a whole had to go through, with Joel's broadcast to colonies worldwide inspiring survivors everywhere to venture out into the surface world and not have to restrict themselves to hiding in bunkers. Joel himself has also rekindled his relationship with Aimee, even though changing circumstances meant that he had to work a little harder than he expected to get himself back together with her.
  • Electric Torture: The Giant Enemy Crab is controlled by Cap through an electrified chain.
  • Eyepatch of Power: One of Joel's friends is a no-nonsense woman with a prominent eyepatch.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Cap and his crew appear on a yacht, heroically offering to evacuate Aimee and her people to somewhere safe while recounting past exploits of saving people from monsters. They're really planning to rob and murder everyone.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Cap acts every bit like a charming ace and easily gets the survivors' trust. But the truth is that he the leader of a bandit gang who pilfers survivor camps and feeds people to his pet Giant Enemy Crab. Which he controls through Electric Torture.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "The lizard ones can't climb for shit," Clyde says when describing various monster strengths and weaknesses. This is how Joel realizes that Cap is lying about his backstory, in which he described a lizard-monster breaching a wall he was defending.
    • When one of the elderly survivors gives a bowl of berries to Joel, a closer look gives away the fact that they're the same ones that Boy warned him against eating earlier. This along with the above cause Joel to realize that Cap is not as friendly as he first assumed.
    • While talking with Mav1s, Joel wonders how his reunion Aimee will go, whereupon the robot responds that while it might end well, another possibility is that she might no longer be interested in him, rendering his entire journey pointless. She's not exactly wrong - Joel later finds out that Aimee's responsibility for her colony has hardened her personality enough for her relationship with Joel to (temporarily) fizzle, and it's implied that she got together with someone else during that time (though he died prior to Joel's arrival).
    • Everyone asking Joel if he stole food from the colony foreshadows the final villain's objective.
    • The Boulder Snail and the floating jellyfish show that not all monsters are mindlessly out to kill humans and they can be helpful or even friendly. Joel uses this to his advantage against the giant crab.
  • Flying Seafood Special: During his night with Mav1s, a shoal of giant glowing jellyfish that float through air pass by.
  • Gentle Giant: The Boulder Snail is one of the few monsters that doesn't try to kill Joel. The Crab Monster also turns out to be this after being freed from Caps control.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: One is used by Cap to haul his ship and dispose of colonists he robs, and is controlled via Electric Torture. It turns on him and his crew once Joel breaks its leash.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: According to Clyde, you can always tell whether a monster is aggressive or not by their eyes. A look into the big sad eyes of Cap's Giant Enemy Crab allows Joel to realize that it's of the latter variety.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Joel is seen working on an illustrated one throughout the movie. Clyde and Minnow add to it during his time spent with them. And after all is said and done, he gives it to Aimee, and it's shown that he completed a second volume.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Joel's bad feeling about Cap seem to be just this at first. He had good reason to be suspicious of them.
  • Guile Hero: Joel isn't particularly strong or skilled, but he's got a good memory and a great imagination, so he picks up and remembers lessons he learns. This allows him to survive by virtue of learning from his failures and not making the same mistakes. Notably, the closest he comes to dying is actually Boy's fault.
  • Hero of Another Story: Joel's colonymates could be the protagonists of their own action film, being a group of experienced survivors who have been regularly carrying out missions to protect and maintain the group for seven years.
  • Heroic BSoD: Joel suffers from one after seeing his parents get crushed by a monster mere feet in front of him.
  • Heroic Dog: Boy, who proves useful to Joel throughout much of his journey and gets a Big Damn Heroes moment late in the film.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Cap's yacht isn't even functional. He's run out of fuel a long time ago, instead resorting to using a giant crab monster at the end of a chain to pull it.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters:
    • While many of the mutated creatures are dangerous to people, they can be avoided if you know how, and the ones that aren't can even be reasoned with. The real villain is the very much human Cap, who selfishly steals and destroys colonies purely for his and his crew's own ends.
    • Although notably Cap and his crew are the only humans to act maliciously towards other humans; everyone else is, if a bit brusque, more than happy to help Joel out within reason. For instance Clyde and Minnow are happy enough to help Joel along while they're traveling the same direction and impart their knowledge about the surface world to him, which proves to be extremely useful. Clyde even gives Joel one of his grenades, although Joel is flatly refused when he asks for more.
    • The film interestingly deconstructs this idea, where it seems good-natured, helpful human survivors greatly outnumber the selfish and villainous ones, who are Hoist by Their Own Petard in the end, and before that were notably a much smaller group then the colonies we see. People like Cap more or less sabotage themselves by preying off of others, since such a strategy rejects creating allies, encourages opposition and enemies, and the kind of people who employ it are unlikely to trust others, and thus unlikely to create big groups.
  • Just Desserts: Cap and his goons are eaten by the very same crab monster they had enslaved and tortured after Joel frees it.
  • Kaiju: It's mentioned in the prologue that the world militaries managed to kill the biggest monsters before human civilization fell, which we see glimpses of in flashbacks and at least one giant corpse is visible when Clyde is surveying the terrain. Some of the mutants seen in the main story are still pretty huge though.
  • Little Miss Badass: Again, Minnow. She's far more capable of taking care of herself than Joel who's almost 20 years her senior. Growing up in the post apocalypse will do that to you.
  • The Load: Joel was this for his colony, having terrible aim, little in regard to physical fitness, and a great deal of trauma that causes him to freeze up when in danger. The Colony all still love him, though, especially the more macho fighters, who try to reassure him and seem to view him like a little brother they want to protect.
  • Makeout Point: A flashback shows Joel and Aimee about to have sex in a car just before the air raid sirens go off.
  • Memento MacGuffin: The colored pencils and notepad Aimee gifted Joel the day the apocalypse began and helped him become a much better artist. He returns it to her as a survival guide for her and her colony.
  • Mood Whiplash: The ending. After Joel gives his message to every last survivor in their bunkers, it cuts to him finally heading north for safety. The orchestral music swells, and you think it would normally end there on a triumphant note. But then, it cuts to Clyde and Minnow ruminating on Joel's fate, especially with there being snow spiders. A slow banjo is the last thing heard before the movie finally finishes, befitting of the black comedy vibe.
  • Nice Guy: Joel himself, Clyde, and the other guys in Joel's bunker colony. Aimee and the women in Joel's colony are also all Nice Girl types too. In fact the only survivors who aren't nice are the Faux Affably Evil human antagonists, who are a distinct minority. Which makes sense, since Joel only survives thanks to the kindness of strangers, a boon not paid to Jerkass sorts who prey off of others.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The point is made partway through the film that not all the mutated creatures are dangerous to people... unless they're provoked, as Cap and his mooks later find out the hard way.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Joel saw his parents go. Minnow doesn't go into details with her story, but it contains her father dying and implied to be bad.
  • Parental Substitute: Clyde and Minnow have a surrogate father/daughter relationship, which is emphasized by the reveal that Clyde lost his son and Minnow lost her father. Minnow even patterns her speech after Clyde's.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Joel yells at Boy to leave after the latter's barking nearly gets them killed by a Sand-Gobbler Queen. Boy comes back at a crucial moment in the climax, however.
  • Reclaimed by Nature: Seven years after a global apocalypse killed 95% of humanity and forced the remaining population underground, Joel finds facets of human society that are starting to be overrun by vegetation.
  • Retro Universe: Downplayed. The movie has a vaguely '50s/'60s feel a lot of the time, with its soundtrack featuring songs that are either from that era (Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely" and Ben E King's "Stand By Me") or else evocative of it ("Coming Home" by Leon Bridges), and the presence of tropes associated with that era - like Makeout Point and, of course, Big Creepy-Crawlies - adds to the flavour. The technology available seems to point at least to the 21st century since we're shown assistant robots like Mav1s to have been commercially available before the apocalypse and they seem able to access the internet and social media (as Mav1s is able to show Joel pictures of his family with just his name and birthplace).
  • Ribcage Ridge: The countryside are littered with the ribcages of the kaiju-sized monsters, already dead long ago, which are used as impromptu walls and ridges.
  • Robot Maid: Mav1s is a robot which was just coming into use at the time of the apocalypse. Joel encounters a model with just enough battery life left for him to interact with her and help him sort through his emotional issues.
  • Robot Names: The robot Mav1s points out that her name is spelled with a "1" instead of the letter "i". Joel points out that his girlfriend's name is "Aimee, with one i and two e's."
  • Running Gag: Joel is asked multiple times if the reason he left his colony is because he stole food. Ironically Cap is one of the people who asks him this, when he and his team are looters.
  • Sand Worm: The Sand-Gobblers and their alpha form, the Sand-Gobbler Queen, which resemble a cross between a hagfish and a lamprey, and acts very much like an homage to Tremors.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Downplayed and ultimately subverted. Aimee has changed enough that Joel feels understandably disappointed to learn that she's no longer interested in him after all the hardship he had to endure to find her, but this helps him grow as a person and realize that he had a lot of other valuable experiences along the way. They do rekindle their love in the end, however, even if they ultimately have to part ways once more.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Very much on the idealist side; whereas most After the End post-apocalyptic scenarios would portray the human species becoming roaming packs of marauders with surviving colonies having to make hard choices and reject people who aren't of any use, here the film shows a world where humans maintain their basic humanity and care for one another, with most roaming sorts being perfectly friendly and willing to help anyone they come along.
  • Slipping a Mickey: The beer at the beach party is used to knock out the elderly colonists and leave them at the mercy of the raiders. Joel hasn't had it and has already realized something's wrong, so the female pirate simply knocks him out cold.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Aimee spent seven years away from Joel, and despite Joel's romantic desire to return to her, she's changed dramatically when he finds her again due to having to manage a colony of elderly survivors. They do rekindle their romance in the end, but the knowledge that she's not the same as before the apocalypse is a big contributor to Joel's Character Development.
    • Joel's The Load of his colony, being notably the only male who isn't part of the hunting party or fighters, and seems to just take up space. When he tells them he wants to leave to go find Aimee...they all try to stop him, because they love him, and don't want to see him die. Most other stories like this would probably have his colony be a bunch of jerks happy to see him leave, if not kick him out themselves, but realistically people are rarely that heartless, especially towards someone they know suffered such a traumatic loss.
    • Most people Joel encounters are maybe not the most social, but they're all fairly friendly and help him survive. The few who aren't, are a minority who end up getting themselves killed, because that kind of selfishness is a really dumb trait to have since it more-or-less stacks the odds against you, whereas working together creates a stronger chance of survival.
    • Though the mutated monsters have gained a reputation for Everything Is Trying to Kill You, there's many monsters who are seen that never even approach Joel, even when he's got his defences down and is an easy target, even ones that are ostensibly predators like the crab. Realistically, predators only hunt their own prey animals and will ignore others if unthreatened, since there's no point picking a fight that might render them unable to hunt if things go awry. Some have evidently adapted to hunt humans so there is danger, but we also see shots of monsters consuming other creatures, so it's less a case of mother nature trying to kill humans so much as hungry animals eating whatever they can.
    • Naturally, when Joel reunites with Aimee, she's not eager to jump back into a relationship with him, since she had moved on. It sucks, but Joel understands, and after some time together they do rekindle the spark, but it'll take much longer before they can ever get back to where they were.
    • Joel's The Load, but once he actually gets out there and starts fending for himself, he does quickly gain some survival skills. Though it was done out of concern, keeping him from danger rather than training him to survive ultimately kept him from growing out of his status.
  • Team Chef: Joel works as the cook for his bunker, because he is solidly a Non-Action Guy.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Joel starts as a stay-in-tank man scared,by monsters to a emotionally hardened and more capable fighter killing some monsters on his own.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In the introduction, Joel tells the tale of Bob, who was killed by a mutated bug despite facing it with a tank. Said bug being too big is part of the reason, the other is that Bob didn't stay *inside* the tank.
  • Tragic Keepsake:
    • Boy carries around a red cloth as a memento of his previous owner (who's implied to be dead). His devotion to it nearly ends up getting him killed when it falls in the river and he runs to retrieve it, attracting the attention of a Sand-Gobbler Queen that was hunting them.
    • Joel's chandelier. It belonged to his mother and he was holding onto it in the flashbacks. It can be seen hanging in his room in the bunker.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Robots are for sale right before everything falls apart, but everything else is as today.
  • Weird West: The film is basically a modern Western with giant monsters.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Joel eventually comes to this conclusion. Sure, the surface is overrun with monsters, but it's also beautiful and preferable to living in a cramped underground bunker. He eventually encourages his colony, as well as others, to return to the surface and live their lives.

"Oh, and one last thing. Don't settle. You don't have to. Not at the end of the world."
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