Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 34 minutes, Director – Abe Forsyth
A failed musician (Alexander England), pre-school teacher (Lupita Nyong’o) and a kids TV show presenter (Josh Gad) team up to save a group of children from a wave of zombies
After her deeply chilling, Oscar worthy performance in this years Us one of the instant thoughts was where would the actress go from there. Well, it seems that the only option was to stay in the horror vein, while introducing a lighter tone with elements of comedy in zomcom Little Monsters. Nyong’o plays Miss Caroline; a pre-school teacher on a trip with her class to Pleasant Valley, a family attraction that just happens to be based next to a U.S. military base, to see American kids TV presenter Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad). On the trip she’s assisted by deadbeat failed musician Dave (Alexander England), the uncle of one of the kids on the trip who offers to help in the hopes of getting close to Miss Caroline – who he soon finds out is engaged.
You’d be excused for being easily mistaken by the tone of the first 20 minutes that Little Monsters may simply be a film just about David’s struggle. A failing busker getting into consistent arguments with his sister, who he lives with along with his nephew – although angering her to the point of getting closer to being thrown out due to his reckless lack of effort. However, after the slightly mismatched opening, the film soon becomes a zombie fulled comedy. It turns out that the military base next door to the small farm and mini-golf course has accidentally released zombies created after an experiment gone wrong. Soon, the otherwise desolate area is filled with flesh-eating zombies. The three adult figures soon have to team up and protect the class of kids with them.
Miss Catherine distracts the kids by treating the entire life or death situation like a game. Singing to them – ukulele almost always in hand – and imaging that running away from the zombies is simply a game of tag. As the situation worsens so does the desperation of the teacher, and the sanity of the other adult figures begins to lower. Teddy McGiggle begins to break character, showing his true angered sweary self. Swearing which the kids consistently respond to by singing about how a bad word was said – leading to further angry swearing from the commonly restrained and laid back characters that Gad has become known for.
While a number of the film’s gags are relatively similar, and sometimes feel like the same joke stretched out for an extended period of time, there’s something about the unique and somewhat light nature of the film that makes it enjoyable. Helped by the performances, and the ever enjoyable presence of Nyong’o, the lightness of the film is what brings the viewer into the world, and creates the majority of the laughs. All contrasting well with the occasional gore and bloodshed as the normally smiley teacher beats multiple zombies with a spade.
There are moments that do feel like they’re put in just to make this feature length, and almost give the impression that this concept may work better as a short film. However, when it comes to the overall feel and style of the piece such thoughts and worries are forgotten about and the pure entertainment factor takes over. The world isn’t exactly detailed, and neither is the plot, but there’s something about the low-budget thrills that creates the funny, engaging and rather imaginative nature of the film. Overall making for a fine, bloody zomcom filled with energy and creativity, further reviving what many were beginning to think was a dying genre.
Nyong’o shines in this funny, inspired and uniquely creative zombie-comedy which while simple has fun with what it does and does it rather well.