Zomcomrom. Romcomzom? Comedy-zombedy-romedy?
Whatever you want to call Little Monsters, the latest from Australian actor/writer/director Abe Forsythe, it’s a damn good bit of fun. Following a primary school teacher who becomes caught in a violent zombie outbreak while escorting her class on a school trip to a local farm, Little Monsters is a compellingly silly and decidedly un-family-friendly addition to the cinematic world of the undead.
The main draw here, of course, is Lupita Nyong’o, who dazzled earlier this year with a dual performance in Jordan Peele’s exquisite Us; Nyong’o is just one of those actresses that I could watch saw off my own leg and enjoy every minute of it, and if you’re going to hang the somewhat thin premise of this story on anyone, she’s the perfect choice. After so many superb dramatic performances (and scene-stealing Marvel supporting roles), God almighty, it’s good to see her having a little fun in a leading role for a change.Her easy warmth is such a delightful contrast to the increasing chaos and violence of the zombie outbreak, and honestly, if I’d had a teacher like her in primary school, I’m pretty sure I would have straight-up refused to age over ten.
But it’s the ensemble that really raise this into the comedic big leagues, especially an outrageously fun performance from Josh Gad as the double-crossing sex-addicted MILF enthusiast of a children’s entertainer. Not to mention the fact that we seem to be living in the golden age of child performers, and Forsythe and company easily skip over the Curse of the Annoying Child Actors with an adorable and totally hilarious kid’s cast.
Of course, there’s the rom part of this zom-rom-com to deal with, and it’s probably the weakest part of the movie – I appreciate the attempts at an emotional throughline beyond just chaotic corpse carnage, and Alexander England as the co-lead uncle with designs on Nyong’o is perfectly charming, but it does feel more of a box-tick than an inherent and necessary part of the plot at large.
Forsythe brings the chaos, too, and uses the unusual setting of the farm to his advantage to have fun with some built-in murder weapons and inventive action sequences, all the best featuring a blood-soaked Nyong’o protecting her charges. I’ve talked about horror as comedy before, and I think that Little Monsters is a great example of someone using all the tropes of spooky cinema for gleefully comedic ends. Oh, and he’s the only person who has ever made Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off remotely bearable to me, so props for that.
It might be a little late for the horror offerings this year, but Little Monsters is more comedy than scaredy. Even if you’re long-past the Halloween mood, the delightfully silly, inventive and perfectly-cast Little Monsters is exactly what you’re looking for to ward off those long Winter nights.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Indiewire)