The horror comedy genre is largely comprised of two variants: subtle, meta films like “Scream,” and over-the-top gore-filled slapstick, like “The Evil Dead.” 2014’s “Love in the Time of Monsters” unites the two for a riotously hilarious, tongue-in-cheek bloodbath.
Sisters Carla (Marissa Skell) and Marla (Gena Shaw) are on a family vacation with their parents, when a tragic freak accident occurs, killing their father. Flash forward to the present, and Marla and Carla are once again on a family vacation, this time with just each other. The two sisters are complete opposites: Marla is the cynical heavy drinker, and Carla the stereotypical sorority prototype.
Marla and Carla arrive at Uncle Slavko’s, a sort of Uncle Sam-themed South of the Border. Marla’s college pal Agatha (Paula Rhodes) works at Uncle Slavko’s, as does Carla’s fiancé, Johnny (Jade Carter). Johnny is one of the many Big Foot impersonators who puts on performances for tour groups visiting Slavko’s. Carla’s plan to surprise Johnny goes awry when the Big Foot impersonators get into a fight and fall into a nearby swamp polluted by toxic waste. Essentially turned into zombies, Uncle Slavko’s falls under attack by the crew of faux-Big Foot, leading to a night of conspiracy, mayhem, and plentiful guts.
“Love in the Time of Monsters” marvelously plays upon genre tropes while throwing multiple unexpected twists, and inserting clever social commentary. The opening scene with young Marla and Carla being filmed by their parents features ominous foreshadowing, but despite the fact that you can guess almost exactly what will happen, it’s still a shocking intro. There’s a nice mix of intentionally predictable fodder that both celebrates and mocks 80’s horror flicks, and genuine shockers.
In addition to clever genre stereotypes, American culture is heavily lampooned. Uncle Slavko’s is the epitome of a tourist trap, quite literally. Marla and Carla fit neatly, at least initially, into molds, and there’s the usual cliché cast of characters: Big Kahuna (Ben Palacios), who explains to Marla that his “little kahuna” isn’t interested in her, Chester (Hugo Armstrong), the tough curmudgeon hunter, Dr. Lincoln (Doug Jones), the brilliant but kooky scientist, and Slavko (Michael McShane), the friendly, deceitful proprietor of Uncle Slavko’s. Yet each character isn’t really a caricature, as they simultaneously defy and embrace audience expectations.
The entire film is completely over the top, but in an enjoyable fashion. “Love in the Time of Monsters” is delightfully so-bad-it’s-good. It’s “Evil Dead 2” meets “Cabin in the Woods,” with a dash of “Tremors.” The special effects are real-world props, eschewing CGI. Blood gratuitously soaks the screen, with some truly memorable dismemberments. Acting is top notch, and sets “Love in the Time of Monsters” apart in its genre. Kane Hodder plays Lou, the head Big Foot impersonator, with a gusto known only to middle school gym teachers. Hodder famously portrayed Jason Voorhees in four “Friday the 13th” flicks. Doug Jones (“Hellboy,” “Pan’s Labryinth,” “Adaptation,”) really steals the show though as Dr. Lincoln, a genius scientist dressed as Abraham Lincoln.
The veteran cast takes “Love in the Time of Monsters” from good to great. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of action, but witty one-liners and taut dialogue pepper the film. A fantastic horror comedy, “Love in the Time of Monsters” goes completely overboard, and even at its most bizarre moments, it’s so enthralling and entertaining that suspending disbelief comes naturally. Side-splittingly funny, brilliantly acted, and shrewdly written, “Love in the Time of Monsters” is destined to become a cult classic.