BFI London Film Festival: Little Monsters

Little Monsters
Little Monsters
Directed by Abe Forsythe
Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad and Alexander England
Screening at LFF October 5th, 7th & 8th 2019

by Alex Plant

Fifteen years ago when Shaun of the Dead first came out it was a revelation. It certainly wasn’t the first zom-com, but it definitely helped the zombie genre claw its way back into the public eye. Fast forward to 2019 and the zombie movie is well past its prime and it seems that there is little new that can brought to this decaying genre. Fast zombies? Seen ‘em. Slow zombies? Seen ‘em. Slow zombies that can also go fast? You betcha. With that in mind what can the Australia-set Little Monsters realistically offer audiences that they haven’t seen before? The answer is: not much. This is a real shame, because there’s a lot that is good within, but the film never quite marries the horror and the comedy in the same way the likes of Shaun does.

After being kicked out by his girlfriend, slacker supreme Dave (England) is forced to crash on his sister’s couch and begrudgingly start playing a more hands-on role in the upbringing of his allergic-to-everything nephew, Felix. He gets the hots for Felix’s teacher Miss Caroline (Nyong’o) and volunteers to chaperone a school trip to a farm. Unfortunately, the farm is located next door to a top secret military facility, where a series of genetic experiments have gone awry resulting in a hungry zombie horde shuffling off base and onto the family theme park, trapping our protagonists inside.

This film delights in how silly it often is, making light of the zombie outbreak at every chance it gets. However, the big problem with this is that the zombies never really feel like much of a threat. For a significant portion of the film our principal cast are trapped in a relatively flimsy looking wooden souvenir shop that is nothing more than a glorified shed. The fact that the undead never manage to break through the huge windows is more than a little ridiculous. Admittedly the film tries to explain this, but it still feels like an oversight. The gore is relatively restrained and uninspired, whereas a lot of the humour is trying a little too hard to be edgy. This disconnect is at the heart of Little Monsters’ biggest problem, which is its inability to balance its tone. At times it feels too silly, at other points it feels too earnest. None of the tension is derived from the undead and there’s the ever present threat of nastiness that never really delivers. Not that you’d actually want see anything happen to these kids.

Alongside some occasional decent jokes, Little Monsters’ other saving grace is its cast. Nyong’o is as effervescent as ever as Miss Caroline, but it feels like a missed opportunity that she isn’t the main character. That being said, England does a decent job of transitioning from zero to almost-hero, carrying the majority of the emotional weight. Gad manages to squeeze some life out of the clichéd kids-entertainer-that-hates-kids trope, but his presence as an American character in this film feels a little bizarre, given how heavily inspired by Australia’s own The Wiggles Teddy McGiggle seems to be.

There’s definitely some fun to be had here, but Little Monsters is just a little too light on the zom to balance out its com.


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