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New Release Review - LITTLE MONSTERS

little monsters review
A kindergarten teacher and a wastrel team up to protect the former's pupils from marauding zombies.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Abe Forsythe

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Josh Gad, Alexander England, Nadia Townsend, Kat Stewart

little monsters poster




Shambling along in the path of Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die and the undemanded sequel Zombieland: Double Tap comes Australian zom-com Little Monsters. Yes folks, whether we like it or not, the zombie movie is back, or at least the zombie comedy is back, as filmmakers seem to have given up on any serious exploration of the sub-genre, unless you count Bertrand Bonello's Zombi Child, which takes the zombie back to its Haitian roots.

Director Abe Forsythe opens his film with a montage that details the disintegration of the relationship between Dave (Alexander England), a struggling heavy metal busker, and his long-suffering girlfriend. It's a bit like a reversal of the famously heart-wrenching opening of Pixar's Up, and it's the most involving part of the film.

little monsters review

Dave moves in with his sister Tess (Kat Stewart) and her young son Felix (the wonderfully monikered Diesel La Torraca). Forced to contribute while crashing on Tess's sofa, Dave reluctantly escorts Felix to his kindergarten school, but he quickly perks up when he meets Felix's pretty teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong'o), even volunteering to help her chaperone the kids on a field trip to a farm the following day. Trouble is, the farm is located next to a US military facility which becomes ground zero for a confined zombie apocalypse, forcing Dave and Caroline to protect their young charges from becoming zombie nosh.

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No genre is as played out at this point as the zombie movie. It's become the defining horror sub-genre of the 21st century, thanks largely to two British movies - 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead - which inspired a legion of cynical low-budget filmmakers to churn out unoriginal dross for a pittance, along with TV's The Walking Dead and its many spin-offs. Even 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead felt like they were simply retreading old ground back when they were released over 15 years ago, so in 2019, is there anywhere left to take the zombie movie?

little monsters review

On the evidence of the recent zombie efforts, the answer is a resounding "No!" Little Monsters certainly doesn't break any new ground, relying heavily on one joke - that of foul-mouthed grown-ups swearing in front of young children, who then go on to parrot the expletives they've picked up but don't remotely understand. It's a gimmick that raises a smile the first couple of times it's employed, but Little Monsters beats this crude gag to death through the character of Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad), a sleazy American children's personality who finds himself trapped alongside our heroes.

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Another out-played gag that's prevalent in recent comedies is the idea of jogging our memories with mention of some forgotten pop culture ephemera, which usually results in that most desperate plea for audience acceptance, the celebrity cameo. No celebs make a cameo here (hey, it's bizarre enough that Nyong'o agreed to be in this thing!); instead we get a rambling monologue from Caroline about how she ended up in Australia by following the band Hanson ('member them, huh? 'member them?), so you can guess what song plays over the end credits. Oh, and we also get a lot of Star Wars referencing and some ironic use of Neil Diamond.

little monsters review

The only thing that saves Little Monsters from taking a hard right turn to Turkeyville is the presence of Nyong'o and England (likely set to become the next Aussie export to Hollywood), who share a genuinely palpable chemistry, elevating their poorly written characters with some undeniably infectious charm. It's refreshing to see a movie with some sexual tension, and it's practically revolutionary for such heat to be generated between characters who don't share the same skin colour (a depressing observation to make in 2019) in a movie that never mentions race. Little Monsters scores points for societal progress, but it does nothing to advance the zombie genre.
Little Monsters is in UK/ROI cinemas November 15th.




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