Love in the Time of Monsters (2014)
Directed by Matt Jackson
Starring Gena Shaw, Marissa Skell, Danny Vasquez, Kane Hodder, Doug Jones
Love in the Time of Monsters came to me in a box. Yeah, the sleeve was crooked and clearly printed at home, but it did not come in a paper envelope. The disc also had the art for the movie on it and not the title written in Sharpie. Points all around for a movie I had never heard of and would not have watched if not required to.
I really hate Bigfoot movies since we already kind of know who the bad guy is. Bigfoot is like vampires; we know what they look and act like, and it takes a significant spin to make them interesting. The only Bigfoot movie I kind of liked was surprisingly a Syfy Original called Abominable, but that was mostly because it had this Rear Window paraplegic voyeur quality that gave the movie a lot more depth. Also, Bigfoot ate a dude’s face, which was sweet. In recent history I have also seen Bigfoot: the Lost Coast Tapes, which was shit, and Willow Creek, which was arguably marginally better than shit. None of these movies would I recommend to any but the most desperate and hardcore of horror fans (as I was when I watched them).
So, when I saw Bigfoot on the cover, my response was a very shruggy “meeeeeeh”. I have a lot of PC games to review though, and something has to be on my second monitor, so I turned off the Public Agent for long enough to watch the movie. Now, to give a bit of context, the new Total War game came out on the Tuesday of the week I watched this. By the next Monday, I had put 82 hours into it. I do not fuck around with my Total War, and not even meals or the ever pressing need for sunlight and showers could tear me away from it. For the entire 97-minute runtime, I stopped playing Total War and just watched.
Jackson has crafted an incredibly funny, rich, and ultimately entertaining movie with enough heart to keep you hooked till the end. This is a movie you can show at parties, watch with friends, or watch by yourself – all with equally enjoyable results. I am not a huge fan of most comedy/horror bastard children, with scant exceptions like John Dies at the End really tickling my fancy. Even so, the sheer amount of charm and fun that is crammed into this movie makes it almost impossible to hate. Even if you don’t love this movie, I don’t see anyone but killjoys and psychopaths having a bad time watching it.
The premise is that a girl visits her boyfriend at the tourist trap he works at with her cynical sister in tow. Blonde sister is in love and a romantic, while brunette sister is cynical and has given up on love. Cynical sister prefers to get drunk and screw the hottest guy in the room, who happens to be Armando, a suave smooth talker who is all about the game. Then the performers, who happen to all dress up as Bigfoot, contract a zombie virus. Super-strength zombie Bigfoots then begin slaughtering the tourists. Blonde sister bears the torch of saving her zombified lover, while brunette sister learns to love in a time of monsters. It’s a perfect combination of cheesy love story and campy monster movie. If you asked me if this movie would work before I went in, I would roll my eyes and scoff. After, I could not see how this movie could fail to please.
A lot of my enjoyment from the film comes from how over-the-top it goes, while still maintaining a human element with the love story goofiness. A movie that starts with standard love drama goes to zombies, goose zombies, moose zombies, hordes of squirrel zombies, Abraham Lincoln scientist, Russian immigrant Uncle Sam, and an actual Bigfoot showdown. While several segments can be described as stupid, it never loses the human element. It is, at its core, a love story from two perspectives: a hopeless romantic who won’t let zombification get in the way of true love, and a cynic whose heart is slowly won over by a man who is learning what he is capable of. The movie has heart, and it is great to see a director who knows he doesn’t have to sacrifice character narrative for cheap thrills.
The effects are all nicely practical and comical. Zombie geese that are clearly on strings bounce up and down comically, and gaudy CGI shows us which Bigfoot zombie has lightning powers. It isn’t the distracting kind of silly either. The movie never takes the action too seriously, so by the time a character runs out of the hotel to fight zombie geese with cleavers or rollerblade away with dynamite, it fits the level of effects perfectly. Even with all the variety in zombie action, the movie never stretches itself too thin. The monsters are all well placed and make sense, and the balance of the well thought out character drama makes it never just stupid.
If I were to have a complaint about the movie, it is that the intro seems to have been made about a different movie. At the start, the two young girls witness their parents be crushed by a statue Paul Bunyan’s axe. It isn’t brought up again, except the quote “we love family vacation!” which they shouted right before their parents were killed. I don’t really get why you would want to keep saying that quote, and it just feels really strange when they shout it with gusto at the end. That being said, it is an incredibly minor complaint.
I loved this movie. It isn’t perfect, but it was perfect for me. It proved that you can have a shlocky horror movie and goofy love story at the same time without any loss of tone. It uses two different genres to enhance one another and never feels dissonant. If this movie were a zombie, I would find the cure so that we could get married.