Think zom-coms are dead? Think again. The horror genre has witnessed consistent waves of zombified villains since Victor Halperin first got his hands on one of Kenneth Webb’s most famous Broadway plays, but our fascination with the living dead and our hunger for their nuanced existence remains insatiable. Our romance with hoards of animated corpses continues, gleefully resurrected time and again with key films making a lasting impression in cinema. The zombie subgenre has been twisted with others for decades, especially with those of comedic positions, to contrast the most dramatic of emotions with the most gruesome of invaders. Director Abe Forsythe (Down Under) indulges in the peculiar contrast of brain-eating menaces and human salvation in his downright charming rom-zom-com, Little Monsters.
Starring Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Alexander England (Offspring), Josh Gad (Frozen), Kat Stewart (Five Bedrooms), and the young Diesel La Torraca (Lambs of God), Little Monsters follows Dave, an immature deadbeat rocker who resorts to his sister’s couch for residency following a split with his girlfriend. Though puzzled by the roles of adulthood and void of any real accountability, Dave finds opportunity in his five-year old nephew, Felix, in order to get close to the child’s attractive classroom teacher, Miss Caroline. In hopes to win her over, Dave volunteers for the Kindergarten class’ school trip to Pleasant Valley Farm, a small petting zoo located conveniently next to a U.S. Army testing site where there is some dangerous zombie activity and an eventual outbreak, of course. Like any good educator, Little Monsters spares no teachable moment and demonstrates two lessons in correlating subjects that are often vital to a proper horror narrative and the most delicious of human anatomy: heart and guts.
Go With Your Guts
As much as I hate to compare, the best way to associate the experience viewers will have with Little Monsters is to think of Cooties meeting Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. Not a bad trio at all, right? Little Monsters packs a huge punch with just enough gore, violence, and vulgarity to earn it a clean R-rating. The zombie effects knock it out of the park as a throwback to the slow-moving monsters with direction and narrative fit for a more edgy, modern speed. “Violent” video games account for the children’s understanding and numbness to the situation, while the adult characters poke fun at universal zombie tropes with some appreciative tongue-in-cheek humor. Little Monsters’ colorful and vibrant juvenile-friendly palette puts those attention cues to good work in the cinematic details. The visuals and cinematography are mesmerizing in quality, elevating the basic, but genuine story.
Aside from the quintessential factors done right, Little Monsters dares to display inappropriate and considerably raunchy dialogue. Josh Gad as a child show personality is perfectly fit. He provides some outrageous slapstick and verbal comedy you won’t see coming. The script is great fun, if you can handle a certain level of immaturity and demonstrative profanity (c’mon, it’s a comedy!). While hysterical and vulgar, Little Monsters remains both playful and bright in the character development as well as in the relationships. Though the connection between Dave, his family, Miss Caroline, and the students may be lighthearted, and despite the zombie breach, Little Monsters has the guts to sling jokes, kick-ass, and take a bite out of survivalist expectations with Kindergarten resilience.
Follow Your Heart
Little Monsters is crafted with thought and meaning that only adds to its sensory entertainment. Being purely character-driven and made with the best intentions, it leaves the zombie situation as a forthright and horror-effective plot guide. The bond that develops between Dave and Felix, is filled with immature hijinks and irresistible delight. Miss Caroline is an essential character played with total confidence and sublime talent by Nyong’o. Her natural aura of sunshine with a quick, upbeat demeanor keeps the tensions calm and cool throughout. Nyong’o delivers one hell of an enjoyable character and does well to complement the roles of England and Gad, rather than steal the show completely (which she very well could). The heart of Little Monsters is found within the nurturing nature that the characters have towards one another and packs resourceful, fearless fight into the effort of maintaining protection of themselves and the children at all costs.
While it’s not easy to turn elements of the undead into heartwarming fun, Little Monsters manages to balance grotesque terror and gore with wit and fluid movement. The whimsy and innocence of Kindergarten splashed against the bloody horrors of a zombie outbreak adds an engaging and entertaining contrast to the typical tropes we can assume will be delivered. Little Monsters may not present ground-breaking material or content, but it treats the narrative with kindness and elevates its humor for a variety of audiences, adult audiences. Little Monsters is a lesson in responsibility and bravery, especially in times of peril, wrapping each scene in brilliant charm and satisfying carnage.
“[…] perfectly terrifying zombie effects, ambitiously profane humor, and an unbelievable amount of character and heart.”
Teaching can be a true form of art when all the high notes are hit, even when not everything goes to plan. I am sure Little Monsters has flaws, but I was too busy being wholeheartedly entertained to really notice them. The only negative thing that does come to mind is how long Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ will be stuck playing over and over in your head after the credits roll, but that’s easily fixed… with a pitchfork to the chest. As easily as Miss Caroline strums the strings of her ukulele, this digestible narrative works in fine-tuned harmony with perfectly terrifying zombie effects, ambitiously profane humor, and an unbelievable amount of character and heart.
Little Monsters is available for digital streaming on October 11th, 2019 through Hulu. It will be released in Australia on October 31st, 2019 and in the United Kingdom on November 15th, 2019 by Altitude. Did you enjoy Little Monsters? What do you think about the film’s use of both heart and guts? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!