Little Monsters

A zombie movie with heart? Little Monsters has a lot of it, and one sweet Caroline.

An Aussie zombie movie?

That’s the first question that comes to mind when you hear about Little Monsters. But make no mistake, the only thing little about this film is its 90 minutes of runtime. The next question would be the odd casting choice of Lupita Nyong’o in the lead role. But anyone who saw – Us – Jordan Peele’s terrorizing mystery-horror from earlier this year will attest to Nyong’o fitting the bill. And boy, does she!

Cinematically speaking, and with no pun intended, zombie films have been done to death. And yet, for some strange reason, 2019 has no less than three mainstream zombie films that all share a common thread. The first one was The Dead Don’t Die, a curious deadpan horror-comedy staring Bill Murray and Adam Driver. Little Monsters, though not groundbreaking, is instantly and entirely gratifying over the latter film. You won’t see a zombie for the first twenty minutes, and that’s because Australian writer-director Abe Forsythe is setting up a warmhearted story with some insane situational humour to boot. We follow failed rock band singer Dave (Alexander England) who is forced to live with his sister and nephew Felix after a botched attempt at trying to get his girlfriend back. All hell breaks loose in the literal and cinematic sense when Dave accompanies Felix and his kindergarten class on a field trip to an amusement park. For Dave, his nephew and the other kids, survival isn’t an option and that’s because they have no idea what they’re up against. No one in this film has heard of the  ‘47 Rules for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse’ either, something that was groundbreaking to zombie movies in the hilariously action-packed Zombieland (2009), and whose follow-up Double Tap is the third zombie film for the year as mentioned earlier. But then no one in this film (and even the audience for that matter), would think salvation would come in the form of a super sweet kindergarten teacher – Caroline.

While that’s a que for the Neil Diamond song of the same name, Nyong’o, in a bright yellow dress and an equally sunny disposition is literally gold as Caroline. With the ukulele Caroline’s been empowered with, I’ll even say that Nyong’o has the one up on Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music. But can you imagine Julie Andrews in a blood soaked dress? Between singing Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off, hatching an escape plan, and assuring her kids that the blood on her dress is nothing but “strawberry jam”, Nyong’o plays an atypical role for a zombie film but in a very refreshing way. Besides anchoring the film, you really start to appreciate her incredible range as an actress and why her Oscar winning debut role in 12 Years a Slave was so well deserved.

While much of this film is inspired by George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and its sequels, Forsythe infuses Little Monsters with his own brand of crass comedy, some utterly tasteless and even crude with the inclusion of Josh Gad as a child TV personality. Gad is super bad, albeit intentional with profanity, but also a scene stealer when it comes to iterating how conflicted celebrities can be in showbiz. The film also has questionable origins to the zombie outbreak in an undisclosed location in Australia, where the amusement park is conveniently set next to a ‘US Army Testing Facility’. This doesn’t live up to the Romero films that inspired it, but as a zombie film, Little Monsters is cuteness overload with a lot of heart and a lot of cheer, with copious blood, gore and expletives to match.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.