It is fitting that this zom-com premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, because the Australian-setting provides a sunny glow, making the hijinks easy-to-watch. With the rhythms of Taylor Swift serving the film poppy positivity, Little Monsters runs comically on track with the pulpy nature of the undead masses.
Not dealing well with a break-up—or life—is wannabe rock singer Dave (Alexander England), who gets under the skin of his sister and nephew Felix. In return for free board, Dave needs to crack on with adult responsibilities, leading him to take Felix to nursery where he develops a crush on cheery Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o). On a class trip to a family friendly park, a surge of zombies threaten the excursion and put Dave to the test.
The zombie comedy genre has ironically been done to death, so it’s hard to find your voice in a crowded zone, but Australian director and writer Abe Forsythe has whipped up a delightful and highly odd addition to the mix. What triumphs most about Little Monsters, is shifting the usual walking dead wasteland to an environment overrun with kids—teeny monsters within themselves. The brightly colored world of a petting zoo teeming with brain-hungry zombies is a splendid clash.
Forsythe utilizes the oncoming wave of shuffling corpses with a clear wink; their coming-about presented through a wholly unsuitable army base right near the zoo. The comedy of child and adult worlds colliding is what makes the film a blast. Miss Caroline passes off the increasing enemies as a kindergarten game and through this pretense, there’s bundles of radiant positivity to wallow in.
More than the effective zombie make-up and the humor of seeing unaware kids trundling past ravenous figures, is the character building of Dave. Sure it’s predictable where his path will end up, but from the crackling start that sees him and his ex-girlfriend Tess arguing in the most public and awkward of times, you gain a sense of his personality; he’s a scruffy and irresponsible man-child. Alexander England plays this arrogant side amusingly but deals with the obvious alterations with proficient emotion.
Lupita Nyong’o is a vision in her yellow dress, screaming out as the films’ ray of sunshine. The actor demonstrates adorable vocals, unstoppable smiles and she wields a ukulele as teacher of the year to keep her flock of kiddies calm, whilst excellently dispatching horrific zombies. The boy playing Felix is downright cute and his little brave outings costumed up as Darth Vader are gleeful scenes to behold.
The film might have predictable character beats and story points. and Josh Gad is on hand in a garish green suit to be—I know it’s the point—but exceptionally irritating, which is no surprise from the voice of the eye-clawing Olaf. However, Little Monsters will have you beaming from ear to ear thanks to the feel-good musicality that sets the zombie landscape somewhere unique.
It is an easy breezy watch with pulses of tension and it holds up as a greatly endearing addition to the genre by letting preschool play tackle the threat. A sunny, funny tractor ride of enough bloodshed that you won’t want to Shake it Off.