Weekend Retreat: A Review of Love In The Time Of Monsters

Every so often, I get sent screener copies of films. They can run the gamut from really bad to pleasant surprise. Rarely, though, do I find one that makes me belly laugh out loud with such force that I scare my cat from across the room. Such was the case with TBC Films’ Love In the Time of Monsters. Written by Mike Skvarla, directed by Matt Jackson, and produced by Andy Gunn, this film is definitely worth your time and money.

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The film has an interesting premise. Marla (Gena Shaw) and Carla (Marissa Skell) lost their father in a hilarious yet horrifying accident that you need to see to believe. As as a result, Marla is a bit distrustful of the good ol’ family vacation. That’s not going to stop Carla from dragging her up to remote resort Uncle Slavko’s All-American Family Lodge, with the intention of surprising Carla’s fiance Johnny. However, Johnny and his cohorts have been exposed to toxic waste, which has rendered them cold-blooded, mindless killers. The best part? Johnny and his crew (including the legendary Kane Hodder) are wearing Bigfoot outfits. That’s right: the unsuspecting vacationers are getting attacked by bloodthirsty men dressed as Bigfoot. It’s up to Carla, Marla, and a pluky band of employees that are not getting paid anywhere near the amount they should to save the day and possibly find a cure for Carla’s beloved Johnny before it’s too late.

Want a sneak peak of what you’re in for? Check out the trailer.

Pretty nifty, huh?

So let’s be honest for a minute. Any time that something comes out that features something even mildly undead, there’s an Evil Dead comparison. Without fail, whether the comparison is warranted or not.. Every. Time. Love In the Time of Monsters has more shades of Evil Dead 2 if anything, but here’s the thing: it’s a different bird, and it can stand on its own two feet. This can be broken down into a few key components: it’s well-directed by Jackson, it’s well-written by Skvarla, and it’s well-acted by a cast that channels the people you know and work with everyday.

Jackson has an eye for a shot, whether it’s full of camp or capturing a common social interaction. He’s not obvious in what he’s going for unless if he’s presenting a moment of extreme campiness; for those moments, I will not spoil you in the least. They need to be seen to be believed, and the more surprise, the better. Once you see them… be prepared to laugh.

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In fact, this film strikes a sweet spot in the horror-to-humor ratio, and that’s prodominately writer Skvarla’s fault. From a nutty survivalist to the screeching banshee boss from hell to the reality T.V. spoofs to the drunken, sassy hookup attempts, there’s more than enough humor to go around. The huge difference here is that Skvarla’s writing knows how to balance out the funny and sometimes over-the-top parts with pieces that are familiar and downright touching. We get realistic, totally-buyable dialogue between sisters Marla and Carla, complete with moments of annoyance and pain. We get disgruntled employees that are sick of their kitschy boss, and we identify with them because we’ve all had that one boss who lives to micromanage. We get common sense and clear thinking in the face of a crisis, which solves the problem of brainless characters making poor choices that we as an audience can’t comprehend. And when all else fails, we get completely off-the-wall humor, from dance routines to techno beats. It’s all about balance in this movie.

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So, the cast. Indie films can be a gamble in the acting department, but this one… joy. Pure, unbridled joy. Between Doug Jones’s Dr. Lincoln and Kane Hodder’s Lou, both actors manage to be funny and believable. Lead actresses Shaw and Skell pull off bickering sisters with their own personalities and motivations in an effortless fashion, as though they’ve worked together for years. Even Heather Rae Young kills it as dimwitted magic act assistant Brandi. Come to think of it, I can’t think of one poor performance in this film. Everyone is good in it, and no one is overacting. It helps you get lost in the story, and not only that – it helps you care about the characters. These are people, and you like them. This cast works so well to achieve this end – I can’t stress that enough.

At the end of the day, though, it really comes down to fun. Love In the Time of Monsters is balls-out fun. So what are you waiting for? Go over to Amazon and rent it today. I promise, you won’t regret this.

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