Updated: Feb 13, 2021
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) tries to keep his best friend “Boy” quiet as a giant monster tries to kill them.
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“LOVE AND MONSTERS”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2020; PG-13 for action/violence, profanity, and some suggestive material; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Bottom of the Food Chain: The Cast of Love and Monsters” featurette (disc & digital)
IN THESE uncertain times, it seems we still love films about the apocalypse. It doesn’t matter if it's zombies, a deadly virus, or invaders from outer space, they serve to remind us life could actually get worse.
They also show the strength of the human spirit and our ability to survive.
Last year, Paramount delayed the release of “A Quiet Place: Part II” starring Emily Blunt returning as Evelyn Abbott, trying to protect her three children from monsters that hunt by sound. Blunt’s husband John Krasinski returned as writer/director, but COVID-19 derailed its theatrical release by 13 months; it’s now scheduled for late April. But, with the vaccine rollout going slower than expected, that date could be postponed again.
At the same time, Paramount had “Love and Monsters,” another post-apocalypse tale, in the wings. The Australian production from sophomore director Michael Matthews (“Five Fingers for Marseilles”) was launched On-Demand last October receiving high praise from critics and viewers. It rated over 90 percent from both at Rotten Tomatoes.
Now it’s finally arrived on the premier 4K disc format, and the relatively low-budget action/romance adventure has never looked better.
(1) Members of Joel’s colony prepare to defend the bunker when a monster insect breaks through the wall. (2&3) Joel continues to have flashbacks to when he and his girlfriend Aimee and his parents were alive and together.
Most of the production was filmed on a huge cattle farm in Queensland, Australia, subbing for California Both areas are filled with magnificent eucalyptus trees, Australians having introduced the species to the Golden State during the Gold Rush of the late 1840s.
The story from screenwriter Matthew Robinson (“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” and “Monster Trucks,” both Paramount releases) takes place near Fairfield, CA, seven years after the “Monsterapocalypse” in which 95 percent of humanity is wiped out by gigantic monsters. As Asteroid Agatha 616 headed toward Earth, the world’s military launched missiles to destroy it. One problem – nuclear fallout rained back changing the DNA of amphibians and insects turning them into monsters.
Shades of Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” and 1950s atomic insect movies “Them!” and “Earth vs. The Spider”! Our hero Joel Dawson, played by Dylan O’Brien (“The Maze Runner” trilogy), suffers from PTSD and freezes whenever confronted by the creatures.
Now in his mid-20s, Joel has lived with a small group of survivors in an underground bunker for the past seven years. They communicate with other colonies through a shortwave radio. “It’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s a great group of people and we love each other,” Joel says as narrator. But he finds himself the only single guy in cramped quarters where everyone else has found their soulmate. Awkward. As the first baby is born, Joel says, “It was super emotional. Welcome to the apocalypse kid.” That’s part of the charm that runs throughout “Love and Monsters” and doesn’t let us down.
Survival depends on the one cow in the colony, Gertie, and hunting parties who go out to search for food. Joel becomes the in-house chef, and he makes a mean minestrone. Still, when it comes to monster combat, Joel continues to freeze even when a monster insect invades the bunker.
(1&2) After reconnecting with Aimee via shortwave radio, Joel heads out on an impossible, 85-mile journey to find her. He receives a map and instructions from his friends on how to survive. (3&4) Joel encounters a giant bullfrog that grabs his leg.
All the romance and the fact Joel discovers his high school sweetheart Aimee, played by British actress Jessica Henwick (“Game of Thrones,” “Iron Fist”) is alive, gives him incentive to leave. The caretaker of 20 elderly survivors, she lives in a colony dozens of miles away. Desperate, he takes off on an
the impossible 85-mile journey to find her.
Dodging giant critters, Joel finds Boy, a delightful Australian Kelpie dog. “It’s a perfect marriage,” says O’Brien during one of two short featurettes. “They need each other and he’s over his head and Boy shows him the ropes.” Then he’s saved from a sandgobbler’s nest by Clyde, played by Michael Rooker of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Walking Dead,” and his adoptee companion, Minnow, 8, played by Ariana Greenblatt. She’s as smart as a fox teaching Joel how to read a monster – to see if they’re killers or not. “You can always tell in their eyes,” she says. “Just look at their eyes.” Clyde and Minnow are heading north toward the mountains, where the cold and elevation keeps the monsters away.
“You don’t know a thing about survival… and you got an attitude like you’re some kind of noble warrior floating on the wings of love,” Clyde says placing Joel’s chances at slim to none.
Everyone he meets first assumes Joel is a food thief, kicked out of his colony. We know he’s a good-hearted soul, and others learn this, too, including Cap (Dan Ewing) a former Australian Royal Navy officer, and his crew.
(1) Minnow, 8, played by Ariana Greenblatt, falls in love with Joel and his dog. (2) The new survival team: Joel, Boy, Clyde, and Minnow. (3&4) Clyde, played by Michael Rooker, saves Joel several times during their journey.
A handful of deleted scenes are provided along with brief featurettes. A shoreline park is converted into Aimee’s colony after 600 tons of sand is brought in. Filming the climactic scenes took two straight weeks. We learn how Mav1s, the AI robot, is brought to life. “You forget she’s made out of fiberglass, and an actress is doing her lines and a puppeteer is controlling Mav1s,” says Steve Boyle, head of Creature FX.
During cast and crew interviews O’Brien says, “He’s [Joel] such a little scaredy-cat, but at the end of the day, he is just still this sweet kid who just wants to be good and heroic and brave and protect the people he loves.”
Sourced from a 2K master with an abundance of monster VFX shots, the 4K is an upconverted presentation that still delivers a noticeable uptick in resolution. The biggest improvement is with the HDR10 and Dolby Vision (disc & digital) toning. Overall, grading is darker and controlled especially in highlights. Exterior daylight scenes at Aimee’s beach colony and Joel’s trek across the countryside show darker highlights and mid-tones without the blown-out look dominating HD versions. Plus, during the campfire scene in which Cap tells his war stories, colors are more natural, without excess orange/yellow cast.
The color palette uses mostly earth tones, and the 4K has a deeper shade of greens, blues, and reds; the HD leans toward bright tones. The blacks inside bunker scenes are deep and inky without losing detail in the shadows.
The 4K disc and Blu-ray are both coded with an eight-channel DTS-HD lossless soundtrack for a full soundstage, while digital is regimented to the slightly compressed six-channel Dolby Digital. There’s plenty of bass response from the monsters movements, vibrations, roars, and clicks. Sound is nicely balanced between effects, music, and dialogue.
The orchestrated score was created by composer team Marco Beltrami (“Logan,” “Ford v Ferrari”) and Marcus Trumpp. Classic pop tunes appear throughout including “You Really Got Me” with The Kinks, “Stand by Me” with Ben E. King, “Keep the Car Running” from Canadian indie band Arcade Fire, and “Think I’m Coming Down” from country maverick Lee Hazlewood.
“Love and Monsters” is an enjoyable surprise in the post-apocalypse genre, with its hopeful message and likable characters. Could a sequel be possible? Add with the excellent HDR toning, and this is a worthy addition to everyone’s growing 4K collection.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Joel practices his archery skills. (2) Clyde and Minnow say their farewells as they head toward the mountains. (3) Joes finds an AI robot, Mav1s, inside an abandoned motel. It still has battery life.
(1&2) Giant leeches cover Joel’s upper body. (3&4) Joel and Aimee are reunited at her beachfront colony.
(1) Cap (Dan Ewing) a former Australian Royal Navy officer, offers Aimee and her colony a new life on the open seas. (2) Joel tries to fight off a giant crab that attacks the colony. (3&4) Joel remembers Minnow’s words, “You can always tell in their eyes,” if the monster is a killer or not. (5) A bittersweet goodbye. (6) Joel becomes a pathfinder, leading others to safer territories.