Arts

Sci-fi action comedy Love and Monsters 'an irreverent post-apocalyptic romp'

Love and Monsters: Dylan O'Brien as Joel Dawson
Damon Smith

LOVE AND MONSTERS (12A, 109 mins) Sci-Fi/Action/Adventure/Comedy/Romance. Dylan O'Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Ariana Greenblatt, Andrew Buchanan, Tandi Wright and the voice of Melanie Zanetti. Director: Michael Matthews.

Released: April 14 (streaming exclusively on Netflix)

RATING: 3/5

KEEP your socks dry: that is a rule of survival in Michael Matthews' irreverent post-apocalyptic romp, which relegates humans to the bottom of the food chain after the chemical fallout from a rocket salvo to blow up a planet-killing asteroid mutates harmless critters into gargantuan, flesh-hungry predators.

Love And Monsters wedges tongue firmly in cheek as an unlikely 20-something hero with a "pretty severe freezing problem" embarks on a suicide mission through hostile territory to reunite with his high school crush.

En route, he encounters a dazzling menagerie of supersized bugs, insects and amphibians, brought vividly to life by Oscar-nominated special effects that keep our adrenaline pumping in breathlessly staged action sequences above and below terra firma.

Dylan O'Brien oozes likeability and charm as the weakling adventurer, drawing on the athleticism from the Maze Runner films and the deadpan dorkiness he honed during six series of supernatural TV drama Teen Wolf.

"That was awesome, I feel like Tom Cruise," he caterwauls after one explosive close encounter with a worm-like predator called a sand gobbler.

Scriptwriters Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson borrow liberally from I Am Legend, A Quiet Place, Tremors and Zombieland for family-friendly scares and they shamelessly leaf through the playbook of Pixar computer-animated weepie Up for a satisfying pluck of the heartstrings.

Sixteen-year-old Joel Dawson (O'Brien) and sweetheart Aimee (Jessica Henwick) are poised to consummate their relationship when their California home of Fairfield becomes ground zero for the apocalypse.

Joel's parents (Andrew Buchanan, Tandi Wright) perish in the chaotic exodus and the grief-stricken teen seeks refuge in a subterranean bunker populated by romantic couples having vigorous sex.

"It's kind of what I imagine college would have been like," he quips in voiceover.

After seven years cowering in fear, Joel plucks up the courage to run the gauntlet of flesh-hungry beasties above ground to reunite with Aimee.

"There's only one person in this world who made me truly happy and she's 85 miles away so I'm gonna go!" he proudly informs his incredulous campmates.

Armed with a measly crossbow and sarcasm, Joel blunders towards Aimee's beachside colony and encounters a dog named Boy, a grizzled survival expert (Michael Rooker) and his sassy eight-year-old surrogate daughter (Ariana Greenblatt), who impart valuable lessons – listen to your instincts, non-hostile creatures have kind eyes – that serve the lovesick hero well on his noble quest.

Love And Monsters is a freewheeling delight, anchored by O'Brien's endearing lead performance that balances humour and heartfelt emotion including a lovely interlude with a dying robot (voiced by Melanie Zanetti) bathed in the glow of bioluminescent jellyfish-like creatures.

Familiar end-of-the-world tropes are polished to a crowd-pleasing lustre by the impressive visual wizardry and director Matthews keeps the pace brisk and the tone predominantly breezy.

Put on a pair of dry socks and enjoy the ride.

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Arts