Impulse Buy Theater - Love in the Time of Monsters
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present…the greatest assembly of undead woodland creatures ever put to film…Love in the Time of Monsters.
Okay, okay, there’s more to it than that. They’re not necessarily undead, more likely mutated…and honestly, they’re not the main threat. Sigh…maybe I should start at the beginning.
Oh, and before I forget, no, this has nothing to do with Love in the Time of Cholera. If that thought crossed your mind…what are you doing here and who let you in? [Now get out before I call security. – Ed.]
Welcome to Uncle Slavko’s All-American Family Lodge…an unspectacular tourist trap known for its pie and regular sightings of Bigfoot (two tours daily). Said Sasquatches are the standard men in outfits and are as happy with their job as any costumed theme park employee. This is escalated to homicidal, cannibalistic rage when our boys wander into a swamp where some illegal dumping has been taking place. This mix of medical waste, military waste, heavy metals and so forth have changed these fellows into…well, I want to say zombies…but not exactly. The movie says mutants…but whenever I think mutants, I think X-Men…and while they have heightened strength and endurance (and can survive most small arms fire), they won’t be taking on Magneto any time soon. So…let’s call them ‘nombies’ for the sake of this review.
Let’s switch gears to our protagonists; sisters Marla and Carla…wait, seriously? [Now, now, let’s be nice to the good people that sent this screener. –Ed.] Fine. We’re introduced to our girls here early in their lives as the film opens with a similar tourist trap…this one Paul Bunyan themed. Mom’s a helicopter and Dad’s your standard camcorder auteur…well, until circumstances give him the ax. Fast forward and we meet up with our sisters again, Marla accompanying Carla as the latter seeks to surprise her fiancé (who is slated to become an angry nombie in 5…4…3…). Our girls, as we’d expect, are a little damaged after Dad’s cut and run…okay more cut and splat. Carla’s attached to reality TV (The Blackchellor being featured here in a parody that is spot on) and Marla copes via drunken sex and low standards.
While Love in the Time of Monsters solidly has one foot in all the tropes associated with a zombie outbreak film, [They’re not zombies…they’re nombies! – Ed.] the other foot ventures into fresh, hilarious territory. We’ll get to that in a bit. Now, when I say ‘zombie tropes’…sigh…okay…’nombie tropes’…this is by no means a negative. In fact, one of the strengths of the film is the conflicts between the characters in our party struggling to survive the night are all rooted in character while avoiding slipping into melodrama. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that there are plenty of smartasses in the group with no shortage of quips. Within this aspect of the film, one of my favorite features was just how quickly a gallows humor developed among the survivors.
Midway through the film, Doug Jones’ character, Dr. Lincoln, takes the spotlight, breaking down what they’re all up against and setting a direction for the remainder of the film. In fact, his performance in the role is nothing short of injecting Bill Nye The Science Guy into the proceedings. [Quite possibly one of the highest praises we can dish out here at the Cat! – Ed.] His change in direction takes root both in plot and in atmosphere. Sure, we’ve seen him in the background throughout the first half…but as he lays out what’s afflicting our nombies, you can feel that we’re starting to make our way into uncharted waters. Yes, there’s the prospect for a cure…but there’s also the prospect that time will run out and the nombies will explode from the chemical bouillabaisse that’s fuelling their hate-filled hankerin’ for human flesh. Thus, our objective switches from surviving the night to trying to save Carla’s infected fiancé, Johnny. The change in tone is a bit of a slower burn…not really kicking in until the last third of the feature…when all hell breaks loose. Nombie moose, nombie fish, nombie geese and, oh yes, nombie squirrels…they get a special shout out for reasons we’ll discuss in a bit. Here’s where the film not only throws down the gauntlet, but kicks you in the balls at the same time. (Rest assured, I’ll never look at quarters the same way again.) And for the life of me, the montage in the final five minutes of the film? Totally worth the price of admission just for that! [The price of admission was zero, dummy, it was a free screener…think your metaphors out next time. – Ed.]
The nombie squirrels. To crib from the godfather of all things Drive-In, I have to invoke Joe Bob Briggs here and dish out a Drive-In Award for Special Achievement to the nombie squirrels for updating the Alien chestburster scene in a way that was LONG overdue! Bravo, you little bastards, bravo! The gore effects throughout the film are top notch and I have to say, impaling an electrified Kane Hodder, kinda sorta invoking the opening of Friday the 13th Part 6…nice touch guys, nice touch indeed.
Like any picture of this nature, sure, there are occasional things to nitpick at here and there…such as the animal effects sometimes being a little off…sometimes being a lot off…or the “Electric Lou” nombie standing in water and not shorting out [Ba da da dum…Electric Lou. C’mon…Icehouse…Aussie band from the 80s…sigh…tough crowd. – Ed.] but as a whole, the movie is so damn fun that it’s very easy to overlook any shortcomings. Love in the Time of Monsters strikes a delicate balance of taking its characters seriously while not taking itself seriously at all…and it works. It works fantastically. So book a trip to Uncle Slavko’s, maybe have some pie…and take my word for it, steer clear of the Big Kahuna. Oh, and grab an ax.
But for the love of god, don’t throw it!
[We did want to take a moment and tip our hats off to producer Andy Gunn for providing us with the screener…our first ever here at the Cat! While not explicitly stated, I’m pretty sure that if we’d given a negative review, his swarm of nombie squirrels would’ve made sure it was our last! We’re joking. Hopefully. – Ed.]
[Oh, one last note…also wanted to make a “Small world, eh Dr. Jones?” comment. It was nice to see that the filmmakers have some roots in Tucson, AZ, where I spent nine years before relocating to the Pacific Northwest. Good on ya, boys! – Ed.]