Recommendation: it’s not going to be remembered as a Hall of Fame zombie flick but it’s entertaining and lighthearted nature will win most over. 6.5/10.
IMDB Synopsis: A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies.
Zombie movies are historically at their most effective when focusing down to a human level, and that’s exactly what makes Abe Forsyth’s touching little zom-com Little Monsters so effective. The charming little Australian film is so small scale it would hardly be recognizable next to similar small scale contemporary like Train to Busan, let alone a blockbuster like World War Z. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s bad, and also don’t let it lull you into thinking that Little Monsters is a low-budget, high-gore, B-grade schlock. With lean storytelling, charismatic performances, and a Taylor Swift acoustic backing track, Little Monsters is more com than zom but nonetheless a campy, fun little flick.
Dave (Alexander England), a charismatic yet stunted man-child rocker who can’t come to grips with being kicked to the curb by his girlfriend, sleeps on his sister Tess’ (Kat Stewart) couch in a hungover haze, playing the cool Uncle to Felix (Diesel La Torraca) by letting him play VR shooting games and dressing him up as Darth Vader. Dave takes Felix to school where he meets the radiant teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), who becomes the apple of Dave’s eye. By happenstance Dave is asked to be a chaperone on the class’s field trip to a petting zoo / adventure center, conveniently located next to a secret US military army base that is experimenting with zombies.
Of course, the zombies—of the slow, doodling variety—quickly run amok and it’s Miss Caroline, Dave, and Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad), a narcissistic children’s tv celeb, safeguarding the children for the night. The action is sparse, but Little Monsters isn’t concerned with the body count or action set pieces, but rather in the quieter moments between. The revelations that Dave hasn’t been appreciative of his older sister, that Miss Caroline isn’t the beacon of purity or responsibility she portrays, or that Teddy is a classically trained actor who sold his soul for fame and money. Additionally, the kids are adorable—if a little unbelievable given the zombies surrounding them. But watching Dave and Miss Caroline show vulnerability, protectiveness, and ultimately embodiment of the best qualities of humans—not so much Teddy—is worth the campy journey.
Ultimately, Little Monsters is a feel good flick, as the alternative would entail a group of kindergarten students being overwhelmed by the living dead. Of late, the zombie genre has shifted from over serious, bloody apocalypse to inventive or smaller scale, like Zombieland, One Cut of the Dead, and Train to Busan. While Little Monsters might not be in the pantheon like the aforementioned titles, it’s still an uplifting romp through a zombie outbreak, and a solid reminder of what makes us human. Watch it on Hulu now.
MVP: Lupita Nyong’o displays why she’s an A-list actor, an action star, and all-around absorbing figure in Hollywood with her performance here.
Highlights: Taylor Swift songs on the ukulele are always a hit. Josh Gad’s rooftop confessional is both over the top and hilarious. Dave’s character transformation.
Director: Abe Forsyth
Studio: Neon // Release date: October 8, 2019