- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Director Michael Matthews’ fun postapocalyptic monster movie suffered the dismal box office fate of many films in a pandemic-suffocating world, but its debut on the ultra-high definition format will thrill home theater audience looking for an entertaining distraction.

Love and Monsters (Paramount Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 108 minutes, $34.99) finds Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien), a slightly useless, afraid-of-his-own-shadow, flight-never-fight young adult living in a bunker colony with a group of survivors on Earth. He has been with the group for seven years after a meteor was destroyed above the planet by a missile attack that resulted in chemical fallout mutating some animals and insects.

Joel passes the time by milking a cow, making minestrone soup, scouring radio frequencies for fellow survivors and longing for the day when he can reunite with his first love Aimee (Jessica Henwick), stuck at another bunker.

Tired of being considered a burden by his bunker mates, he goes on an 85-mile journey to find her.

Along the way, Joel finds his courage after some epic creature battles and some new friends including a dog; survival expert Clyde (Michael Rooker) and his adopted daughter Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt); and a yacht captain that brews his own beer.

This comfortable “dramedy” is a perfect fit in the young adult sci-fi genre and will remind viewers a bit of a watered-down, less funny “Zombieland” (Joel often narrates his adventure with even lessons on survival) though replacing the undead with some wild-sized creatures

Ultimately, however, “Love and Monsters” thrives due to Mr. O’Brien’s naive charm and his character’s romantic tenacity as well as emotional interactions with compelling characters that transcend the typical creature feature.

4K in action: Although, the sometimes overtly dark interiors seen in the movie’s bunkers look clearer with its release in 2160p with high dynamic range enhancements, as opposed to its murkier high definition companion, “Love and Monsters” visual presentation explodes with color and life when Joel begins his journey outdoors.

First, the postapocalyptic planet is ripe with lush greenery and highlights such as a snowy mountain range and crisp beach head pounded by the ocean surf.

Next, viewers will often marvel at the abundance of slick monsters including an elephant-sized frog covered with pinkish oozing pustules and wielding a telescoping pinkish tongue; a translucent pink, snail wearing a rock formation covered in moss; and an awesome single-story-tall centipede with clawed legs.

However, a night sky filled with glowing neon blue floating jellyfish delivers the reference quality moment for the entire UHD presentation and well worth examining for its crispness and saturation.

Best extras: The included Blu-ray disc offers a disappointing pair of promotional featurettes (roughly 15 minutes in total) that look more like promos for selling the film to a distributor rather than offering viewers solid background information.

They cover an overview of the production and creating the postapocalyptic landscapes on location in Australia, including the production and prop design in the bunkers. I would have preferred more on the creation of the monsters.

Considering the release constraints due to the pandemic and the enormous financial loss for a film, with an estimated $30 million budget, Paramount should have gone a bit deeper with bonus content to give buyers a reason to purchase the two-disc set for their home entertainment library.

Specifically, a creature compendium or an optional commentary track with the director would have been great additions.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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