Director: Abe Forsythe
Writer: Abe Forsythe
Producer: Keith Calder, Jess Wu Calder, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky, Jodi Matterson
Stars: Lupita Nyong¡¯o, Alexander England, Kat Stewart, Nadia Townsend, Marshall Napier, Diesel La Torraca, Josh Gad
A kindly schoolteacher and an unreliable uncle become unlikely heroes when zombies create chaos on a kindergarten field trip.
Kicked off the sidewalk by cops who don¡¯t want to hear his screeching street music, and kicked out completely by his exhausted girlfriend Sara, foul-mouthed underachiever Dave falls back on his stressed-out sister Tess for a place to stay. As a single mum, Tess has more than one reason to be worried about this uncomfortable arrangement. Dave¡¯s carelessly unfiltered habit of speaking his mind and generally slacking off doesn¡¯t make him an ideal role model for his five-year-old nephew Felix. Never mind how eager Felix may be to sign on as Dave¡¯s sidekick.
Despite his immature abrasiveness, Dave isn¡¯t really a mean man. He¡¯s simply so bull-headed and self-absorbed, he usually doesn¡¯t tune in to what¡¯s going on around him. Think Paul Rudd in ¡°Our Idiot Brother¡± mixed with Billy Bob Thornton in ¡°Bad Santa.¡± He mostly means well in his own offensively weird way.
Dave gets a chance to face his fear of fatherhood, and finally assume real responsibility for once, when he volunteers to chaperone Felix¡¯s class field trip. It¡¯s not for altruistic reasons. Instantly enamored with Felix¡¯s teacher Miss Caroline, Dave sees a golden opportunity to take his mind off of failure and his hand out of his pants if he can get on her good side.
He¡¯s going to get closer to Miss Caroline than he ever could have imagined however. When a Code Red breach at a nearby U.S. Army testing facility releases scores of bloodthirsty zombies, Pleasant Valley petting zoo and putt-putt course becomes a buffet of sheep, farmers, and tiny tikes alike. It¡¯s up to Dave and Miss Caroline to keep the kids out of undead mouths while ensuring they stay oblivious to the danger to boot.
Funniness flies in your face fast and furiously from the first frame of ¡°Little Monsters¡± all the way through its end credits song. If there¡¯s available space to fit another off-color gag, even for only a fraction of a second, writer/director Abe Forsythe makes sure to cram in as many jokes as his movie can handle. A smile stayed on my face the entire time and I laughed out loud no less than every five minutes. That nearly never happens, especially when watching a comedy alone in my home.
Casual crudeness makes up a fair portion of the film¡¯s amusing attitude. Part of that comes from the relative shock value of seeing a grown man deliberately slam a door into a kindergarten class bully¡¯s head, or openly talking about ¡°slayin¡¯ puss on the playground¡± to encourage his nephew¡¯s classmate crush.
But the lighthearted music and overall tone injects a whimsically spry spirit that¡¯s merely mischievous, not mean-spirited. Coming across as an offbeat comical fantasy, the movie manages to be irreverent and heartfelt at the same. That¡¯s a difficult balancing act to maintain, and ¡°Little Monsters¡± pulls it off with aplomb.
Surprising no one who knows her work, Lupita Nyong¡¯o contributes the most weight to the film¡¯s surprisingly heavy emotional anchor. Horror history will best remember Nyong¡¯o for ¡°Us¡± (review here) when 2019 comes up as a year in review. I daresay she is as much of an MVP in this movie though, maybe more so.
Lupita Nyong¡¯o radiates blinding charisma in every scene as Miss Caroline. Immense entertainment comes from watching her cheerily shield children from the gory terror surrounding them on all sides. Like Roberto Benigni in ¡°Life Is Beautiful,¡± Miss Caroline brilliantly masks her own fear by making conga lines or games of tag out of escaping zombies. Then she goes off on her own to behead a bevy of ghouls only to come back and giddily bounce up and down with her class. The blood on her dress is ¡°strawberry jam¡± she says through a warm smile.
The way Nyong¡¯o effortlessly flips her face to threaten a cowardly children¡¯s TV host, then immediately resumes calming the kids with Taylor Swift cover songs on her ukulele, makes her badassery all the more badass. You want this woman teaching your children. You also want her leading your team of survivors in a zombie apocalypse.
If too many paragraphs weren¡¯t a concern, I could shower Alexander England with just as much flattery. Dave requires careful characterization to not come off like a complete cad. England polishes him with enough rough charm that one can¡¯t help but root for his redemption as well as his wishful thinking romance with Miss Caroline.
Newcomer Diesel La Torraca has that preschooler speech pattern that makes him difficult to understand sometimes. But he certainly compensates with abundant cuteness. If your lip corners aren¡¯t touching your ears during either of his costumed Darth Vader impersonations, you may be incapable of appreciating escapist absurdity.
Although it leans far more on comedy than horror, ¡°Little Monsters¡± earns its R rating by liberally lathering on a lot of crimson carnage. Seemingly styled after ¡°Day of the Dead¡± designs, the zombies look great too. The movie couldn¡¯t qualify as ¡°scary,¡± but it doesn¡¯t skimp on squishy slaughter either.
¡°Little Monsters¡± isn¡¯t enjoyable only if ¡°I f*cked your mom¡± humor gets on your nerves. Obscenities riddle dialogue. They¡¯re intentionally used for exaggerated effect to hold hands with the aforementioned shock value of seeing innocent children subjected to cartoonish levels of violence and vitriol. As hilarious as it all is, this style of silliness obviously won¡¯t win over everyone.
Even though it¡¯s unafraid to stomp into potentially sensitive territory with merry mockery, ¡°Little Monsters¡± still hits surprising sweet spots as an endearing effort. From Felix¡¯s strange obsession with tractors to Neil Diamond shoutouts, Abe Forsythe consistently plants clever comedic callbacks all over his delightfully preposterous plot. Fans of highly praised zom-coms like ¡°Shaun of the Dead¡± may widen their eyes to hear someone suggest this, but ¡°Little Monsters¡± deserves to be a serious contender in any conversation about funniest films in the zombie horror-comedy subgenre.
Review Score: 90