There’s just something about zombies and comedy that goes together like intestine munching and Romero films. Return of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, they’re all examples of what this sub-genre can do when it’s at its best, and Little Monsters, having played this past weekend at Beyond Fest, comes within inches of being on that level…
…With a plot that plays like an upside down version of Cooties, writer/director Abe Forsythe’s Little Monsters follows burnout trash monster and wannabe rockstar, Dave (Alexander England), recently kicked out of his girlfriend’s place and staying with his sister, Tess (Kat Stewart) and adorable but allergic to everything nephew, Felix (Diesel La Torraca). It isn’t long before Dave finds himself with a crush on Felix’s teacher, Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) and invites himself to chaperone the kids on a field trip to a wildlife farm in Australia. There’s just one thing standing in the way of Dave and a hot date with Caroline besides screaming kids: the farm has become overrun with zombies.
This film may feature a large cast of children, but Little Monsters is a hard R, evident through its foulmouthed characters. While Dave isn’t a guy you want to babysit your own kids, or even your goldfish, there’s just something endearing about the way England so casually explains to a stunned, five-year-old Felix that a douchebag is a thing used to hydrate a woman’s pussy. And he isn’t the only one. Not mentioned yet is the polka-dot bedazzled child entertainer, Teddy (Josh Gad) who Dave and co. find themselves with. During the Q/A for the film, Gad was emphatic that this movie would kill his career in kid’s films, and you can see why. Here, the same guy who played Olaf in Frozen screams obscenities at children, reminisces over fucking their mothers, and even pulls a Mike Tyson on a zombified tyke.
While everyone in this film, kids and all, are great, no one outshines Lupita as Miss Caroline. This marks the second horror film Nyong’o has shined in this year, and I’m now convinced she’s a goddess who I never want to leave the genre. Lupita sings, dances and chops her way through the undead in Little Monsters, all the while keeping her cool for the kids and telling them the blood drenching her yellow dress is just “jam”. Dave and Caroline put on their best happy faces despite all of the death and slack-jawed zombies surrounding the gift shop they’re holed up in, and it isn’t difficult to fall in love with and admire these characters, flaws and all.
There’s so much heart to Little Monsters, you can practically hear it pounding through the screen. This is first and foremost a blood-soaked comedy of the most hilarious degree, but in many ways, Little Monsters is like what would happen if Disney ever made a zombie film (probably no accident, considering the numerous Star Wars references). After the zombies initially attack the farm and trap our heroes in a gift shop, the entire story revolves more around Dave and Caroline keeping the kids safe, while Teddy gets drunk off of dish soap in the corner. Songs are sung, friendships are formed, and, like the kids, I found myself repeatedly thinking “awe” in what is an ultra-lighthearted zombie flick. I doubt you’ve ever seen a zombie film as simultaneously bloody and adorable as Little Monsters.
Some are going to find Little Monsters a little too sweet and cuddly, and that’s fair. The one thing this film is missing is any genuine terror. Outside of a couple moments that left me praying a child here or there would be okay, there’s very little tension in this zombie treat. Once the characters barricade themselves about halfway through, Little Monsters drastically slows down and lets the zombies become a backdrop to Dave and his relationships with Caroline and Felix. That’s less of a criticism, and more of an observation that Little Monsters is the feel good zombie film of the year, and that’s not going to work for those hoping for something a little less “cute”.
Don’t let that throw you off though. Like I said, Little Monsters may be the Disney-fied version of a hard R zombie flick, but there’s still loads of brain-munching, literal face-ripping gore to satisfy the most hardcore genre fans. It’s just that this film may have you saying “well that’s cute” more often than you thought imaginable between gallons of bloodshed.
Little Monsters’ only flaw is in allowing the audience to feel too safe with its characters (there’s that Disney-fied element coming into play). Whether the characters are just that charming or the well-designed zombies just that unthreatening, I rarely felt like the situation was as dire as it should be perceived to be. Still, I haven’t had this much fun with zombies in a while, and the hysterical cast more than makes up for any misgivings.
Little Monsters shuffles onto Hulu on October 11th.
By Matt Konopka