REVIEW: Unreserved Comedic Horror, ‘Little Monsters,’ is a Must-See

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Written and Directed by Abe Forsythe (Down Under)Little Monsters stars Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England, and Josh Gad and is a horror comedy that plays with both genres to create a unique experience. The film was screened during the South by Southwest 2019 Film Festival (SXSW) at the Paramount Theater, in the largest venue of the festival. The theater was filled with laughter, energy, and a love of genre film.

The film follows washed-up musician Dave (England), whose life is going down the drain quicker than his old band God’s Sledgehammer. But, after taking his nephew to school he takes a liking to the teacher, Miss Caroline (Nyong’o). After he agrees to chaperone a field trip in order to get closer to Miss Caroline, a sudden zombie outbreak takes watching the children to the next level. Not only do the two aim to save the kids from being zombie-food, but they also try their hardest to save the children’s innocence and keep them calm all while Teddy McGiggle (Gad), a famous children’s entertainer complicates the situation.

Defined as a horror-comedy, Little Monsters, as Forsythe said on the SXSW Red Carpet, is a romantic comedy at its heart. The film is built on a solid foundation of unreserved comedy that is dark, physical, and some of the best I’ve seen in the genre in a while. When the two lead characters, Dave and Miss Caroline, aren’t trying to save the children they’re bonding and growing closer in the only way that romantic comedies can show, with Taylor Swift accompanied by a ukelele and quoting Neil Diamond.

While the movie’s leading man is the prototypical loser musician who has an almost edgelord humor about him, his growth through the film into a loving uncle is to be applauded. Not to mention the physical comedy he is involved in is not only hilarious but endearing. On the other side, we have Miss Caroline who, in her yellow sundress, is a radiant ball of energy needed to bring home in the zombie outbreak.

But don’t let that fool you, Miss Caroline will do anything to keep her kids safe and when she returns covered in zombie guts, the humor is found in her quick thinking on how to explain to the kids what is happening in the most innocent way possible. With Teddy McGiggles rounding out the adult cast, we get a man who is broken by his children’s entertainment status and presents a humorous and dark performance that uses the difference between his personality and the frog green suit he wears to accentuate the absurdity of his behavior.

All of that being said, a comedy with adults is easier than comedy with children. Fortunately, the kindergarten class is full of laughs itself. Whether it’s the kids using the language of adults, like Felix (Diesel La Torraca) repeating the literal definition of a douchebag, or one of them throwing a tantrum over put-put golf, the humor the kids provide pulls you back down to reality when things get absurd. The entire young cast is great and Miss Caroline’s relationship with them is one that pushes her character forward and reveals parts of herself as the film goes on.

There is a charm to the film that was highlighted by Forsythe opening the film at the SXSW premiere. For him, as a dad with a son who has many allergies, sending your kid off to school is trusting another human to keep your child alive. Which he explained – is not easy. The charm of this movie balances out its unreserved humor and it’s apparent that the small moments of comedy with the children is a personal one, modeled after Forsythe’s son or experiences as a parent. Kids do the darndest things, right?

As much as it is a romantic comedy of sorts, Miss Caroline progresses to protect the kids, not for the sake of David. The same can be said for David, he enters the situation set on winning over Miss Caroline, but his main focus quickly becomes taking care of his nephew and his classmates. In that respect, this comedy gives you character development that others don’t, plus it adds in buckets of blood.

On the horror side, Forsythe leverages tropes of the zombie subgenre for laughs. Slow moving zombies, different animals being eaten, physical gags, and a few action sequences round a great use of a horror staple. But with music and the main characters, it never feels like something we’ve seen before. In fact, seeing Miss Caroline play the loving teacher the kids need to a woman who will do whatever it takes to protect them is well done, making her zombie action sequence near perfect.

However, given the type of fight choreography we’ve seen Nyong’o do in her role as Nakia in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I know those fight scenes could have been even cleaner. But, it doesn’t detract much from the film, if anything it adds to its charm as an indie zombie romp that is well worth watching.

With Hulu owning the distribution rights, we’ll have to wait and see when it becomes available outside of the festival circuit, but when it does, you should be in the seat.

Little Monsters
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

On the horror side, Forsythe leverages tropes of the zombie subgenre for laughs. Slow moving zombies, different animals being eaten, physical gags, and a few action sequences round a great use of a horror staple. But with music and the main characters, it never feels like something we’ve seen before. In fact, seeing Miss Caroline play the loving teacher the kids need to a woman who will do whatever it takes to protect them is well done, making her zombie action sequence near perfect.