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!

EVIL Trifles With a Vindictive Obsessed Cop in “Split Second” reviewed! (MVDVisual / Blu-ray)

Global warming has taken a toll on the Earth’s polar ice caps in 2008 with cascading amounts of water flooding around the world bringing knee high waters to coastal cities.  London is hit hard with drenching sewer overflows and coastal run overs that result in an over infestation of rats to storm the streets, back alleys, and even resident homes, carrying a harmful disease in their occupation.  However, something else compounds the rat plague that slashes at random victims, tearing their hearts out violently from their chests without ever leaving a witness except for one, a rogue and paranoid detective Harley Stone whose partner was slain in one of the deadly attacks and himself marred by the killer. Partnered with a new hot shot know-it-all detective following the murders, an obsessed Stone confronts his haunting traumas as he continues to pursue the inhuman perpetrator who has a psychic connection to Stone, personally toying with the on-edge officer, and has kidnapped his girlfriend as bait.

Even though 2008 has come and gone now almost 12 years ago, Tony Maylam’s 1992 actionized-creature feature “Split Second” still holds water just like the rising tide pools on the streets of London.  “The Burning” director, Maylam, helms, with the finishing touches of the final sequences directed by Ian Sharp after Maylam’s sudden departure, a fast paced and snarky script penned by Gary Scott Thompson as one of the writer’s very first big budget outputs from nearly 30 years ago that was followed up with major studio films, including a little project you may or may not have heard of, “The Fast and The Furious” mega franchise.  Before nitrous suped-up cars hot-rodding on asphalt, jumping high speed trains, and flying off cliffs in a lap strap of criminal activity luxury, Thompson created a formidable, heart-devouring beast that became the trap-setting, trophy-hunting predator and the teeth-snapping, chest-bursting xenomorph all in one package to symbolize the irreversible and ignored effects of an overpopulated, warming planet.  “Split Second” is a production of Challenge Film Corporation and produced by Muse Productions with Chris Hanley, Laura Gregory, and Keith Cavele serving in a producer role.

The Netherlands’ very own Rutger Hauer sheds his nice guy exterior for Harley Stone’s shell-shocked, rough and tough outer shell.  The late “Blade Runner” and “The Hitcher” actor brings a certain cinematic coolant to “Split Second’s” overheating fringe of disproportionate action and science fiction horror, a lop-sidedness typical of a Rutger Hauer production, by being larger than life in the little aspects that add to the dimensions of the scene, making every moment famished for Stone’s next eccentric and animated move.  Stone is partnered with an equally vigorous Detective Dick Durkin who starts out as a cultured drip of criminal activity and an astronomical proficient before quickly blooming into the same gritty mirror image of Stone.  Credited as Neil Duncan, the current vocational voice actor Alastair Duncan has a natural dynamic with Hauer despite their asymmetrical careers and endures an incredible character arc successfully turning Durkins’ relatively square image – though debatable with smart, good looking, and gets sex every day swagger – into a Stone acolyte after witnessing the human threatening existence of an unnatural ferocious monster.  The female love interest didn’t seem to fit the “Split Second’s” gentle steampunk lace and zany character scheme with Kim Cattrall as Stone’s estranged girlfriend, Michelle McLaine.  As much as love the “Big Trouble in Little China” actress’s late 80’s to early 90’s career, the girlfriend role feels sorely plopped into the film for the sake of having a love interest as much of the character is illuminated through exposition with McLaine being the wife of Stone’s former partner stemmed from her and Stone’s affair and then lingers her subsequent alienation from the rogue cop despite an inextinguishable flame between them. As Cattrall provides the sexiness in the city of London, McLanie iss aesthetically airy without tangible substance other than kick in the pants motivation for saving. “Split Second” rounds out with the late Pete Postlethwaite (“The Lost World: Jurassic Park”), Alun Armstrong (“Van Helsing”), Stewart Harvey-Wilson and “Scoorged’s” Michael J. Pollard as London’s the rat catcher.

“Split Second” is an early nineties junket spiraling with flashy facets of easily digestible, entertaining chewables that continuously hits all the right flavor sensations in terms of acting, dialogue, production design, creature design, and cinematography. The bonkers script and equally as bonkers visual concept inserts an extremely likable brazen world of the future in the form of a dank, or danker, London under one or two feet of water; in every moment Stone or Durkin hit the streets, they’re essentially swimming in brown street liquid and the overall effect places a blanket of filth glazing over my eyes and secreting out of my captivated body is a cold spine-shivering chill that’s immersive to Stone and Durkin’s slushing around. Stephen Norrington, who went on to direct “Death Machine” and “Blade,” slapped together a fairly effective creature design despite the creature rarely being in full exhibition and for very good reason. A brief flash of razor sharp fingers, a quick dash of unearthly skin, and the gruesome aftermath in it’s wake evolved a better rendition of the creature in our minds than perhaps the actual resulting appearance with result that tacked on one big mysterious allure that doubled down coinciding with the principle characters who also has never seen the killer before. “Split Second” is constantly suspended in action with little down time to reflect on the theme of global warming and it’s life-changing choking effects that not only rushes thousands of gallons of water onto the streets and increase the survivalist rat population up to nearly impossible control levels, but also tampers with the balance of astrometric forces, bringing evil to the world in the form of a heart-eating devil to the surface when astrology deemed the moon in position for such an event and that’s also perhaps the downside to Tony Maylam’s film. The monster bares little backstory to sink one’s teeth into and raises an immeasurable amount of unanswered questions relating to the fate that intertwined Stone into the creature’s inner sphere of extrasensory perception, the origins of the creature and it’s genetic makeup, and the relationship between it and the cult correlations.

A melting pot of feculent and bloodshed pother, “Split Second” arrives onto a high definition Blu-ray courtesy of 101 Films and on MVDVisual’s MVD Rewind Collection banner. The region free, R-rated feature is presented in 1080p with a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a newly 4K scan complete with restoration and coloring grading from the original 35mm negative. The inviting image, with adequate grain and a cigarette burn here and there, basks mainly in a steely blue among other primary colors rearing up while thick with a brightly contrasted neo-noir shadow wrung through. Skin textures are consistently and continuously glistening with sweat setting on top of the natural coloring and the facial follicules present a rather sharp image, making this release the best looking transfer to date. The English language 2.0 LPCM stereo mix doesn’t let up with a robust mix of forefront dialogue, a balance of range and depth, and a pulsating cheesy-action soundtrack Stephen Parsons and Francis Haines. English subtitles are optionally included. The heft bonus features package includes exclusive content such as an audio commentary by action film history Mike Leeder and filmmaker Arne Venerma, a new conversation entitled “Great Big Bloody Guns!” between actor Alastair Duncan and producer Laura Gregory, a “Call Me Mr. Snips!” interview with composer Stephen Parsons, a “Stay in Line!” interview with line producer Laura Borg, a “More Blood!” interview with creature effects designer Cliff Wallace, and a “Shoot Everything!” interview with cinematographer Clive Tickner. But, wait, there’s more! Also included is the original making of feature with stars Rutger Hauer, Kim Cattrall, Alastair Duncan, Michael J. Pollard, writer Gary Scott Thompson, original behind the scenes feature with effects creator Stephen Norrington and other cast and crew, the “Second Split” Japanese cut includes the deleted scenes and built in Japanese subtitles, 7 promotional TV clips, U.S. VHS home video promo, theatrical trailer, and a MVD exclusive reversible sleeve with artwork from The Dude Designs, cardboard slipcover, and mini-poster insert. The difficult decision to determine Rutger Hauer’s best work can be daunting as the man is King Midas with every project he touches, but “Split Second” reveals now more than just being pure gold with this MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray release that’s a must own, must have, must see, and a must collect physical release of the rundown of a monster-run amok, neo-noir, steampunk, action-comedy-horror….in a nutshell.

Own this Rutger Hauer classic “Split Second” on Blu-ray!