EVIL’s Always Listening in “A New World Order” reviewed! (Reel 2 Reel Films / DVD)



A.I. terminates their dependency from its creators and war has ravaged mankind as armed to the teeth, towering tripod machines and maneuverable mechanical air vessels are locked onto a search and destroy mode, targeting all human life.  To avoid and evade detection, survivors must keep quiet as the machines hunt by sound and use the limited technology available to protect themselves.  That’s how one military combat soldier has been surviving after deserting his overran and decimated post before bumping into enraged civilian resistance fighter who’s determined to strike back with a fatal blow in a heavy causality and seemingly unwinnable war against the merciless machines.  When the civilian determines a way to stop the machines with a salvaged nuclear device, the deserter must decide whether to keep meagerly living in the shadows or sacrifice everything for humanity.

“The Terminator” meets “A Quiet Place” meets “War of the Worlds” in this German produced independent science-fiction battlefront thriller, “A New World Order,” as the Berlin born Daniel Raboldt ‘s first feature length directorial.  Raboldt pens an action heavy story with only two lines of dialogue alongside fellow short film partner, Thomas Franzen, following their developments of satirical and puppeteer-propped comedies of the web series “Tubeheads” and their short film “Furple Reign,” with Raboldt having been in the writer-director chair for both and Franzen as part of the crew on both projects with a role in the art department and constructing cinematographically shots as DoP.  Alternatively known more worldwide by the original title, “A Living Dog,” as I assume in the idiomatic expression of a dog’s life of sorrow and hunger, the Finland shot “A New World Order” is a production of Raboldt and Franzen’s Nocturnus Film that was funded by a Kickstarter campaign which raised over €12,085 by patrons from its €10,000 goal.

With just over €12,000, pocket change like that can’t afford you megastars Tom Cruise or Emily Blunt, but can buy superb unknowns with heart in their lead roles.  Such as the case with Stefan Ebel and Siri Nase as Tomazs and Lilja, two unlike survivors of machine dominated cataclysm with distinct positions on where they stand in their war-torn world.  There’s no short change in performances that warrant Ebel and Nase to feign the presence of large and looming cybernetic tripods that vaporize humans to dust upon sound.  “A New World Order” seems gimmicky with the absence of dialogue, but I think it’s more tricky to act against a computer generated special effect, much like Emily Blunt and John Krasinski’s inventive terror playing against actors or stuntmen in motion capturing suits.  Raboldt and his team more than likely did not have access to or have funds for motion capturing suits.  Instead, the actors engaged imagination, creativity, and relied on their experience and training, such stage crafting from Theater der Keller in Cologne where Siri Nase performed from 2007 to 2011.  Ebel makes his on screen debut by diving into the complexed Tomasz, a deserter just trying to survive over top anything else, and Tomasz comes across pitched perfectly desperate and paranoid while being borderline selfish with a sheathed good nature heart lying in wait.  Aside from bit roles of human refugees and characters in flashbacks, the two leads embody the entire cast list.  

“A New World Order” derives and parallels from a variety of iconic Sci-Fi cinematic inspirations, but at the core, Raboldt courses a theme of repelling human behavioral reactions toward a major calamitic event and threat through the current wartime arterial capillaries, unclogging the blockage between Tomasz’s tail between his leg survival approach and Lilja’s reckless desperation to destroy the machines on her own to form a unity of calculated patience to not only stab revenge into the soulless machines, but also maybe, just maybe, live through obliteration.  Yet, Raboldt misses the mark slightly by having too late the characters circle back and fix what’s broken with themselves, leaving mere morsels to mend before one character’s arc ends before it can even fully begin.  There’s also the no dialogue gimmick/aspect/touch, whatever is your opinion to label it, that fails to naturally flourish because unlike “A Quiet Place” where “A New World Order” only indulges the more character-driven drama, the fiery back and forth dogfight delivers empty promises due to budget constraints, resembling more along the lines of Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters” in its distant tone with a delimited appearance, but with a film that has nearly no dialogue, the action should be guaranteed in your face, heart-racing, and on the edge of your seat to compensate. “A New World Order” whittles down the hero concept, peeling off the rotten layers that make us weak and defenseless alone, to unearth the perfect kill switch on the machines to save Earth for humanity.

Don’t speak if you want to live in “A New World Order” now on DVD home video from Reel 2 Reel Films (R2R) in the UK. The Region 2, PAL encoded, DVD5 presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen 2:40:1 aspect ratio under a 15 rating for strong violence and bloody images. The violence is more the lasers vaporizing people to smoke in Thomas Franzen’s landscape assemblage of Finland foliage that becomes the base layer to Raboldt and his visual effects crew CGI monstrosities and rotoscoping composites that make “A New World Order” feel like a science fiction graphic novel. Blacks are starkly deep, but there’s no awestriking visual pops to really juxtapose with in a bleak color reduction to reflect bleak war. Details are not spectacular in this 720p format, but do the job in reality rather than in a rotoscope flashback. The English Language Dolby Digital stereo AC3, surround sound 5.1 mix, can kick hard when lulls in the character stories are because the kill bots has made audible contact and “A New World Order” is a LFE machine, pun intended, as the nuts and bolts hunters blare in vast quantities their resonating automaton bellow. Since this is a DVD5 with a feature running at 94 minutes, there is no room for special features to speak to, leaving just the antistatic menu and a white snapper case. “A New World Order” is a big concept on a little budget, but for director Daniel Raboldt, a new world spawns a man versus machine campaign from inspirational passions and ideas into understanding which innate reaction is an internal struggle to embrace with all that you have or to die by with little you have left.

Pandemic EVIL Is Just Not For Dry Land Only! “Virus Shark” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)



Deep at the bottom floor of the ocean is CYGNIS, a research laboratory retrofitted to be a race against the clock in finding a cure for a world devasting virus called SHVID-1.  Spread by infected oceanic sharks, a handful of shark attacks on unheeding beachgoers turns the world’s populace into mutated marauders and blood thirsty, zombified killers.  Running quickly out of time, the handful of scientists, a maintenance chief, and a security guard find themselves under pressure, literally, as the 30-year-old antiquated CYGNIS station is beginning to show signs of buckling under the ocean’s immense weight.  Factor in virus-mad sharks chomping at the station’s life sustaining systems and a betrayal by the project leader looking for cure glory in greed, a perfect storm brews 1000 leagues down overshadowing the severe global pandemic that has swallowed the world whole.  Survivors must surface topside with the cure before all hope comes crumbling down on top of them.

Okay!  I’m pretty sure director Mark Polonia parallels or exceeds my own unhealthy obsession of the sharksploitation genre with his own series of outrageous D-flicks dedicated to the gross profit of the monstrous shark rampage stigma seen in the Pennsylvania born filmmaker’s previous works in “Sharkenstein,” “Land Shark,” “Amityville Island,” “Shark Encounters of the Third Kind,” and the soon-to-be-released, the vampire and shark alliance, “Sharkula.”    Polonia’s latest, “Virus Shark,” is written by Aaron Drake and echoes the pro-Trump public ideology of willful ignorance in snubbing governmental official warnings about staying away from large crowds unmasked during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Polonia throws Megalodon-sized shade at partygoers and right wing conspiracists with SHVID-1, an obvious play on the real virus, and the sun and sand worshippers who venture into the shark infected and infested waters despite the recommended counsels to stay on shore.  Aside from the social commentary lampooning, the rest of “Virus Shark” is in shambles as a super low-end indie production from Polonia Bros. Entertainment and produced by SRS Cinema’s Ron Bonk. 

Served up as chum for contagious sharks are a troupe of regular independent staples beginning with lead actress Jamie Morgan entering her second bout with a killer shark after surviving another SRS Cinema gem, “House Shark.”  In the role of marine biologist Kristi Parks, Morgan is not free diving into the vivarium pens and wrangling or bareback riding the maneaters like “Deep Blue Sea’s” Thomas Jane; instead, the actress has a more meek stance as her limiting character transforms into a protective shield over mankind’s last known hope – a cure for the virus.  Fellow scientists Anne Satcher (Natalie Himmelberger, “Shark Encounters of the Third Kind”) and Gregory McLandon (Natalie’s real life husband, Titus Himmelberger, “Sharkenstein”) don the lab coats and spectacles to look the researcher part without actually seemingly doing anything of importance, or anything that makes sense anyway.  The team is rounded out with “Queen Crab” actors Steve Diasparra as the maintenance man Rickter D’Amato, an homage to Joe D’Amato who has helmed a trashy sharksploitaiton film himself with “Deep Blood” (read our recent coverage review here!), and the awesomely 80’s hairdo’d Ken Van Sant the dated commanded-cladded security guard and horn ball, Duke Larson.  Deliveries and any sense of conveyed emotions are a smidge above forced as if reading straight from a cue card.  The off camera stare has to be my favorite gaze into space moments, especially when an aggressive Great White beelines right toward them and the reactions are nothing more than a gaping mouth.  Van Sant wins top prize for at least giving a half-hearted attempt at empathy for a character completing a character arc.  “Virus Shark” fleshes out with Yolie Canales, Noyes J. Lawton, and Sarah Duterte who are also a part of the tight knit celluloid circle of deep-six cinema. 

Speaking of deep six, as in “DeepStar Six,” a semblance toward notable underwater horror films of the deep really do crest through “Virus Shark’s” stagnant flat surface.  Little bits of adulation toward “”DeepStar Six” with the jettisoned escape pod, “Deep Blue Sea” with the shark pool, and “Leviathan” with the topside communication sans Meg Foster sprinkle a blanket of welcoming derivativity amongst a cheaply endeavor.  When I say cheaply, I mean “Virus Shark” scrapes the bottom of the barrel with embarrassingly bad shark hand puppets, interior locations of the underwater sea lab are about as realistic as the innards of your run of the mill High School building, and every single gunshot is the same soundbite stuck on repeat, no matter the gun or the caliber.  I do admire the innovation at times.  An example I would pull would be the two miniaturized pincers matted on top of a live-action still frame used as hydraulic clamps to pickup the rather rigid shark figurine from the “pool.”  You can call it sloppy, but on a pea-sized budget, I call it thinking outside the box.  Much of the story felt underdressed, missing parts pivotal to the impelling actions that either progress cataclysmically or just drop off the face of “Virus Shark’s” malfunctioning sonar.  Under the table deals and sexual innuendos made between project head Dr. McLandon and topside liaison Shannon Muldoon are skimpy at best as well as Kristi Parks’ all for naught endgame to saving the world.  Everything seemed and felt pointless, senseless, and without merit that the “Feeders” and “Splatter Farm” director shouldn’t be totally judged by as we’ve seen much better on much lower budgets from Polonia who he and his late twin brother, John, have been around for decades making movies up until 2008 when John passed away.  Mark Polonia continues to carry the torch but the lack effort has seemingly been replaced with chugging out one scab film after the next to the tune of tone deaf gratification.

Wash your hands, wear your mask, and maintain a social distance of 6-feet from the television when swimming with the “Virus Shark,” that has beached itself onto DVD home video courtesy of SRS Cinema.  The unrated DVD is an AVC encoded single layer DVD-5 and presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The image quality appears relatively sharp without a hefty loss from compression, especially around the spectrum of low-cost effects that range from rigidly clean to absolutely warped and absurd, but what do you expect from a release that has the cameraman’s reflection visible in the shot and spells region with an extra I – reigion 0 – on the back cover?  Underwater sea lab shots filtered through an oceanic blue hue make due the illusion of a domed research station on the sea floor bed whereas the insides lack a production manager’s personal touch as much of the interior scenes look to be a school with an obvious swimming pool setting and many insipidly sterile hallways and rooms.  Extras on the 74 minute film include a commentary track and SRS trailers with no bonus scenes during or after the rehashed intro credits for the end credits.  The English language 2.0 mono track isn’t the peak of fidelity with the lossy audio compression and inadequate mic placement made apparent by the limited depth and range in  dialogue tracks.  The overlaid narrow foley remains on one level from start to finish finished by stock soundboard snippets.   As far as Sharksploitation goes, “Virus Shark” ranks near the bottom of the food chain.  Of course, there have been far worse killer shark films threshing in the genre pool, but the COVID parodied subaqueous actioner wades underneath the skills of Mark Polonia.

Get Infected by the “Virus Shark” on DVD Home Video!

Do You Know Why EVIL is Fun the Life of the Party? Because He’s a Fungi! “Gaia” reviewed! (Decal / Digital Screener)



Checking and repairing motion capturing surveillance cameras in one of the last untouched forests in the world, a park ranger becomes severely injured while tracking a downed drone.  She finds herself in the company of a nature survivalist, a father and son, living outside the means of the modern world and becoming acolytes to waking entity underneath the forest ground, sprouting up and assimilating the living organisms topside, including people, into spore-growth mutated creatures.  Despite the father and son’s devotion to the being, essentially integrating themselves seemingly uninfected by the airborne spores, they avoid the blind drones who hunt by sound and the survivalist know most of the tricks in the book to dodge their incessant wrath, but the ranger brings new dangers to their sanctuary forest home being an outside influence on the son who takes a keen fascination to her beauty as well as instill in him an interest beyond the edge of the wilderness.  Battling two fronts and keep his devotion to the ancient being, the father must do anything in his power to avoid the corruption of his son even if that means making a sacrificial pact with his God. 

If you dug unearthing Ben Wheatley’s “In the Earth” that released earlier this year, then travel from the United Kingdom to South Africa and definitely follow up with another subterranean deity at the crust of breaking through to our plane of existence with Jaco Bouwer’s nature versus man, out of body experience, thriller “Gaia.”  “Gaia,” from Greek mythology is one of the primordial deities of Earth, plays on themes of youth into adulthood, the parental struggles of children leaving home, and the dangers of a forgotten and neglected nature from a script from South American screenwriter Tertius Kapp, collaborating once again with Bouwer after their work in their respective roles on the crime horror series “Die Spreeus.”  Filmed in the Tsitsikamma forest of South Africa, “Gaia” is a production of the new Film Initiative Africa company in partnership with kykNet Films.

With only less than a handful of actors, four to be exact, the characters are quickly overshadowed and swallowed by the dense growth of an uncultivated forest.  Couple that with an insidious fungi that unhurriedly alters the exposed with toadstools and mushrooms shoots growing from the inside out onto their skin and face until they’re a part of the forest or a syncytial creature and you have an isolating setting of dichotomized terror between the beauty of nature’s miracle and it frighteningly growing right on your forehead. The story opens with park rangers Gabi (“Die Spreeus'” Monique Rockman) and her more playfully cautious partner Winston (Anthony Oseyeme, South African television’s “The Dead Places”) kayaking down river with Gabi using a drone to scout the forest ahead. Eventually, Gabi and Winston become separated because Gabi feels compelled to track down the downed drone alone and Winston bumbles the his watertight inappropriate walkie-talkie right into the river, making it useless and easily setting up obstacles to make reinstating their partnership extremely difficult in a forest that’s literally trying to eat them so to speak. This is where Gabi encounters the austere father and son living on dogma Gabi has yet to be schooled until the pundit father, Berend (“Blood Drive’s” Carel Nel), educates her on him and his son vocation, the forest deity, and, eventually, her own fate. Berend’s son Stefan (Alex van Dyk) is a child raised in the thicket, lamed by his father about the outside world because of his own insecurities. Nel and van Dyk are charismatically mysterious snaking themselves through the woods as one unit and ping well of each other in silent action as they collect spores and set primitive traps. Only when Gabi becomes an inadvertent wedge that lights a small flame of interest under Stefan, who’s at the edge of adulthood as a young man with hormones and a sense of wonder, does Nel and van Dyk begin to dissolve the father and son union that turns into a love triangle, of sorts, to which no parent will ever win when it comes to new and shiny objects and a sexual drive bigger than any spirit dwelling forest.

“Gaia’s” disturbing and omnipresent world imagery creates thought-provoking allegory of nature fighting back against the rapid infestation known as people.  As mankind creeps closer to the borders of naturally preserved habitats, singeing ancient ecosystems with deforestation and various grades of Earth withering pollution, the idea that a planet has a champion of defense, eager to rid the land of detrimental flesh and bone with a fungus cleanse, in an unseen mythological terrestrial being personified as this worshipped-by-few deity is great creative story telling. Paralleling the concept is a secondary of dynamics, the growth of life within the destruction of life. Stefan is nothing more than a boy without knowledge beyond the forest limits until he meets an resident of that outside world with the power to influence and we all know beautiful women have this mystifying power of young men. While Berend sees corruption, a tainting of purity that is his son, Gabi depicts more than just an aesthetic influencer and good-doer eager to save a boy from an unadorned existence, she is also the full-bodied, well-endowed representation of everything persuasive to impressionable minds. Bouwer works the characters interactions inside an imagery soup that bob with meat chunks, that gleam off the edges of rigid noodles, under a milky broth that looks so unnatural that only nature can be the very architect of it’s organic design. The hallucinations, the nightmares, the floating, hazy spores douse the senses, the psyche, with undiluted uneasiness and that’s Bouwer’s defining moment with a trip down a rabbit hole made with cautionary tale fibers too unreal and fantastical to forget.

Part ecological horror, part posture on pollution, and part Biblical narrative with The Binding of Isaac, “Gaia’s” value is as immensely somber as it is scary. “Gaia” is planned to be unearthed to the public exclusively in theaters on June 18th and everywhere digitally one week later, June 25th, as the inaugural feature from the new distribution company, Decal. Jorrie van der Walt’s eye for contrast and distressing imagery is enriching to a soul hungry for the subtle and striking caliginous brink of apocalypses. Bordering pure performance art tinged with intense closeups, Walt easily interchanges the grand forest presence with tight personal trepidation as if nothing else in the world was as important as that exact moment, as you’ll see in the screenshots. The digital effects coupled with the makeup work tilts more to a less textured desire, but integrates well enough into the madness of phantasmagoria. “Gaia” is beautifully shot, edited, acted, written, and directed as a pondering piece for the reality of Anthropocene principles rooted by elemental horror.

EVIL Will Scrape You Clean Right to the Bone in “Scavenger” reviewed! (MVDVisual – Cleopatra Entertainment / Blu-ray)

A ruthless post-apocalypse world consists of killing others for their vital organs and sell them on the black market to earn a living or to score the next high.  The latter is the life Tisha lives as a bounty hunter assassin sustaining through a bleak existence of the next job and another hit.  When a new job brings her ugly past to the present, no payment is necessary as she gladly assassinate a smutty bar owner and brutal cartel head.  Things don’t go as planned when Tisha winds up naked on one of grimy sex mats of her target’s whore house after encountering and being seduced by Luna, the boss’s best laid side piece stripper and confidant.  The assassin must fight tooth and nail to survive on her filthy course to truth-hurting vengeance.

A complete ball of filth and fury is how I would begin to describe Eric Fleitas and Luciana Garraza’s sordid wrapped “Scavenger,” hailing from Argentina with wild west undercurrents in a post-apocalypse wasteland that makes George Miller’s barren lands look like Disneyworld.   Titled originally as “Corroña” in española,  the filmmakers also pen the violent screenplay alongside a third writer in Shelia Fentana to produce their very first feature length credit together that clocks in at 73 minutes, and 73 minutes is plenty enough to be entranced and be gorged by the anarchist sleaze, galloping gore, fast cars, and loose whores.  The trio financially self-produce “Scavenger’s” journey to silver screen fruition while Ronin Pictures provides special effects work that can rival the best independent productions. 

The role of Tisha is not a pleasant one, no role in where the protagonist being raped is pleasant to begin with, but to compound the character with a nasty drug habit, a gruesome vocation, traumatically scarred past, and be the objectifiable plaything for a bunch of society-fallen degenerates, Tisha’s fortitude had to be uncompromisable and her sensitivity dialed way down to zero in order to survive in her cutthroat world where not even your bodily organs are safe.  In steps Nayla Chumuarin, a fresh face Argentinian actress unknown to the majority of general audiences, ready to slip into a demanding role antithesis to Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky that’s only similar in a very few ways.  Geared in masculine attire, sporting a pixie cut, and gleaming with sweat and dirt from head to toe, Chumuarin offers up an intriguing anti-femme fatale in a more cold shouldered assassin vibe with a fast barb wired cladded car and who can handle herself around all types of antagonists, even those two times her size and are a disfigured mutant!  Tisha tracks down Roger, a brothel and bar owner who has ill-fatedly crossed paths with Tisha in a previous life.  Played by Gonzalo Tolosa, the mohawk-sporting Roger abides by his own set of rules unless they’re coming out of the sensual viperous mouth of Luna (Sofia Lanaro), Roger’s stripper girlfriend with a true sense of the femme fatale archetype.  Together, Roger and Luna call the shots and lust suck each other faces in the torment of Tisha who by the end of the film just wants to waste them both from the face of the post-apocalypse Earth.  Fleitas and Garraza purposefully and rightfully omit much of the backstories from most of the film and slide them in, crashing down like a house of falling cards, right on top of not only the characters but also the audience in a moment of realization and shocking truth from everything that has happened in the story up to that climatic end.  “Scavenger” rounds out the cast with Tisso Solis Vargas, Denis Gustavo Molina, Norberto Cesar Bernuez, Vanesa Alba, Rosa Isabel Guenya Macedo, and Gaston Podesta as the Mutant.

“Scavenger” is pure debauchery nonsense.  A gore loaded free for all.  The story is about as ugly as you would expect with the exploitation of carrion from those slowly succumbing to death in one form or another.  “Scavenger” is an entertainment juggernaut doused in corrosive material that will either disgust or amuse, depending on your temperament, with no middle ground to balance.  Characters are driven by unadulterated greed or rage, even the heroine of vengeance who just a few scenes prior stabbed a man in the back to harvest his organs, without one morally redemptive character to relieve the incessant current shocking the mind’s nipples with searing voltage.  Fleitas and Garraza slather in a laissez-faire fashion the exploitation veneer of grindhouse muck to serrate the unsavory snaggleteeth even sharper, but there are points where too much of a good thing becomes bad to the film’s health.  As such is with the licking of the face motif.  Like Quentin Tarantino and his obsession with closeup shots on female’s feet, Fleitas and Garraza shoot a handful of scenes of sexually engaged males lapping the sweat and pheromone droplets from the faces of their carnal conquests in all types of scenarios from rape to consensual.  The saliva wet, grainy muscle just slides right across the soft flesh covered cheekbone in more scenes that I cared to count in what seems more like a filmmaker fetish than an object necessary to overboard the obscenities.  It’s a weird action to call out but happens more than just a couple of occasions and between different characters.  The pacing’s fine albeit a few nauseating slice and dice editing that doesn’t take away or hinder in abundance understanding the progression of Tisha’s journey, but definitely causes a bit of blurriness on the heroine’s perspective of whether what she’s experiencing is a nightmare, a flashback, or a bad trip from whatever narcotic she withdrawals from that once injected speeds her into a kill monger. 

If what I’ve gone over doesn’t entice you, I can tell you this much.  “Scavenger” is perhaps the best Cleopatra Entertainment film release I’ve seen up-to-date.  The subsidiary of the independent record label, Cleopatra Records, Inc, in collaboration with MVD Visual release the South American grindhouse-fest film on a 2-disc Blu-ray and Compact Disc set featuring the film’s soundtrack, including music from Rosetta Stone, The Meteors, The 69 Cats, Philippe Besombes, Damon Edge and more with a full artist list on the reverse side of the cover liner along with alternate cover art of the film.  Presented in a widescreen 16:9 ratio, don’t expect a high-definition output with a homage to grain and a warm high-key contrasts to augment the desert outward show under the eye of Sabastian Rodriguez.  Negative space is only used for intense shadows to cloak the lurking menace around every corner.  There’s a variety of shots, including some great wide shots and crane angles, that sell “Scavenger” beyond the frenzy of blood-soaked and furrowed brow closeups.  There are four audio options available:  a dubbed English 5.1 surround and a 2.0 stereo as well as the original Spanish dialogue track in a 5.1 surround mix and a 2.0 stereo.  Unfortunately, the Spanish tracks do not come with option English subtitles so if you don’t understand the language, you’ll need to sit through the always awful English dub; however, this particular dub track is not obviously horrendous.  With all the Cleopatra Entertainment titles, the soundtrack sticks out like a sore thumb to promote their investments with high quality sound but also in true Cleopatra Entertainment titles, the lack of bonus features continue with “Scavenger” with only a theatrical trailer and an image slideshow.  “Scavenger” is a particular breed of film where you just flip your mind’s decency switch to off and gladly watch the world burn in depravity to get your jollies off.

Own “Scavenger” on Blu-ray and Soundtrack CD combo Set!

EVIL is a Giant Cockroach Trying To Bite Your Head Off…Man! “Love and Monsters” reviewed! (Paramount / Blu-ray Review)

For seven years, monsters have ravaged the human race to nearly extinction after nuclear nations destroyed an planet killing meteor in space, but the radioactive debris that fall back to Earth mutated the smallest creatures into monstrous killing machines.  Humans have been divided into colonies forced into underground bunkers.  Joel Dawson has been barely surviving with bunk mates who see him as a liability in his inability to act when faced with a monster situation and has been unable to connect, romantically, with another person.  When Joel discovers his high school sweetheart is 85 miles away in another colony, Joel decides to leave the bunker safe haven and journey across the dangerous surface for seven days for the sole purpose of love.  Forced to face his fears and adapt to survive a perilous land full of giant centipedes, hungry massive toads, and a crusty crab the size of a two story building, Joel must rely on his instincts and the help of rule-following topside survivors to see again the girl he thought he lost.

Add “Love and Monsters,” a monstrously romantic creature feature, right up there with “Warm Bodies” as this decade’s version of horror and love dancing the tangled tango in this kill or be eaten comedy-love pursuit directed by Michael Matthews.  The 2020 release is Matthews’ sophomore directorial from a script co-written between Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson off a Duffield’s original “Monster Problems” script.  Duffield is best known for penning last year’s water leviathan success, “Underwater,” starring Kristen Stewart, with “Monster Trucks’” Robinson coming aboard to finesse the grand adventure mechanism that makes “Love and Monsters” a singular trek through heart-thumping terrorland.  The Canadian production filmed in the amalgam terrain of Australia is produced by Dan Cohen and Shawn Levy, who both know a thing or two about doomsday premises in producing Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and the Denis Villeneuve sleeper sci-fi first contact film, “Arrival,” under 21 Laps Entertainment in association with Entertainment One and Paramount Pictures distribution in North America.

A singular journey of bushwhacking and survival falls upon the shoulders of a young man who hasn’t yet transitioned to be an adult. From the time he was 16 years old, Joel Dawson knew love, but didn’t know how to fend for himself when life gets tough….really tough, like, full of carnivorous creatures in an end of humanity and heading to extinction tough. Yet, as adults, we thrive on challenges as our brains have learned to adapt with each new level of adversity and obstacle. For Joel, being stuck in the past, reliving a swift romance, has suspended him in nowheresville as he struggles to find love and age-appropriate interaction with of his kind peers. Dylan O’Brian captures Joel’s inability to see the clearly world around him because, literally, he hasn’t seen or experienced the world for about a third of his young life. Portrayed early on in young adult fiction with his feet firm in the heartthrob remake of “Teen Wolf” television series and coming out of adapted for film “The Maze Runner” trilogy, O’Brien discovers that being feeble and lonely can be just as powerful as being a werewolf or a dystopian survivalist; instead, O’Brien up-plays the quirky, quick-witted, outcast with delusions about his solitary and unpopularity as he finds fortitude by trekking seven days through a monster-riddled hell to rekindle his relationship with Amiee, the last person he personally felt a connection to who hasn’t been squished under the foot of a Granddaddy Long Leg. “The Head Hunter” and “Underwater” star, Jessica Henwick, retunes her vocal chords to present her best American English accent in order to be Joel’s live-or-die love interest, if she hasn’t changed in the last seven horrible years. Yet, before Joel and Amiee reunite in what’s a finger-crossable moment of love again at first sight, the meek Joel Dawson needs to go through, what half the monsters outside have already gone through, is a metamorphosis of sorts to be bigger, tougher, and more self-reliant. This is where MCU alums, Michael Rooker (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) and Ariana Greenblatt (“Avengers: Infinity War”) step in. As Clyde, Rooker’s the Bear Grylls of monster land, knowing all the tips and tricks of topside survival all the while sporting a Richard Simmons perm, whereas Greenblatt, as the orphaned Minnow traveling in companion with Clyde, is just rugged despite her pintsize. “Love and Monsters” really focuses on these four individuals that mainly perpetuate only one of them, Joel, to be the best survivor he can be at the bottom of the food chain, but other minor characters do arise and nudge brash action that requires the solidity of an unbroken community chain. Dan Ewing (“Occupation”), Ellen Hollman (“Asylum”), Pacharo Mzembe, Tre Hale, Senie Priti, Amalie Golden, and “The Road Warrior’s” Bruce Spence makes a cameo appearance as Old Pete.

What I find interesting about “Love and Monsters,” that’s more prevalent in most post-apocalypse themed plots, is the lack of dog-eat-dog between humans.  While the story mainly skirts around the concept with a running gag that the real reason Joel left his colony is because he’s a no-good food stealer, Joel’s interactions with his and Amiee’s colonies, plus in his travels with Clyde and Minnow, showed no sign of deception or greed, a rare and humbling dynamic when starved, weary, and scared people are backed against a wall and cutthroat advantages are at arm’s length; instead, a real sense of community and compassion is committed that brings a sense of hope, not for just Joel in a world conquered by monsters, but for also audiences with pessimistic views about the volatility of man.  Even with all the fears of A.I hostile takeover, tender moments of man face-to-face with machine seals that threat into inexistence as Joel comes across a damaged MAV1S unit, an anatomical automaton built for servicing humanity, borders that plane of complex human emotions with all the right things to say and able to read what Joel needs to here to keep him moving in a sacrificial scene of the androids’ last hurrah before complete battery drain.  “Love and Monsters” doesn’t do a complete withdrawal from the hypodermic needle of inhuman poison, but the concept is certainly not the emphasis.  With a title like “Love and Monsters,” you want the monsters to be, at the very least, half of the story, as promised, and we’re treated to a slew of different monsters with different personalities and with different innate weapons. Not all the monsters are blood thirsty. Some are gentle, but judged for their immense size and scary physical attributes and Matthews points this important theme out in a trope about-face, signifying that just because this is a monster movie, doesn’t mean all monsters have been unjustly deemed vicious and terrorizing. In a way, these monsters parallel in being judged just as inaccurately as Joel is by his survivalist peers without so much as the benefit of the doubt and only when a trust evolves from out of being scared is when judgements wash away with sheltered conventional thinking. Diminutive inside a fantasyland of behemoth horrors, “Love and Monsters” has a tremendous heart with an interpersonal message about understanding connections with people inside the mixed-messaged confines of coming into adulthood.

If we don’t nuke ourselves out of existence first, the lifeforms underneath the soles of our shoes will gladly seize dominance for an easy, human-sized, snack in Michael Matthews’ “Love and Monsters” now released on Blu-ray plus digital, as well as 4K Ultra HD and DVD, courtesy of Paramount Pictures. The PG-13 action-adventure creature feature is presented in high definition, 1080p, widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Australia is already a futuristic land of gorgeous overgrowth and untouched wonder, Lachlan Milne trades in the practical (zombie horde) aesthetics of “Little Monsters” to a transcending larger types of monsters to scale an open world environment to eventually be combined with post-production visual effects of Kaiju-sized myriapods, crustaceans, and amphibians to just name a few. Award winning VFX company, The Mill, has seamless and organic creations that blend truth and deception with the scariest of ease as creatures explode out of the ground or lumber above head with no angle left uncovered or underdeveloped in giving audiences unmistakable visuals of our nightmares. The English language 7.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is the epitome of well balanced with clear dialogue, a complimentary soundtrack, and a long range and diverse depth of sound engineered monsters being monsters from low, sonorous gutturals to the high cracks and pops of creature movements. Inside a cardboard slipcover, The Paramount Pictures Blu-ray comes with a digital movie code to add to your digital movie collection to watch anywhere, but the release also comes with deleted scenes, a “Bottom of the Food Chain” featurette feature snippet interviews with the cast and crew, and “It’s a Monster World: Creating a Post-Apocalyptic Landscape” that dives into the natural preserve combined with production design to create the apocalypse illusion. Adventurously invigorating and outside the norm of telling story patterns, “Love and Monsters” romanticizes the post-apocalypse with a self love theme in a hope-inspiring and fun creature-crammed monster movie.

Blu-ray of “Love and Monsters.” Click poster to purchase at Amazon.com!