Abe Forsythe’s Little Monsters cuts through dismal zombified doom-and-gloom as a beaming ray of all-smiles sunshine. Australia’s funniest horror comedy in years doesn’t mince expectancies about being an impossibly entertaining midnight riot. Walkers drool bloody saliva from their flesh-peeled mouths, but Forsythe’s focus is on true to life superheroes (teachers), doofy “fool in love” romantics, and a child-cheerful genre spin so contrastingly rooted in innocence. Movies like Little Monsters and Cooties are a dime a dozen, yet given how well-balanced, ferocious and endlessly entertaining Forsythe’s ode to unsung protectors is, one has to ask a simple question: Why?
Alexander England stars as the recently single slacker Dave, forced to bunk with sis Tess (Kat Stewart) and her tractor-obsessed son Felix (Diesel La Torraca). Dave’s ambitions of rockstar fame have lost momentum since God’s Sledgehammer disbanded, while Sara’s (Nadia Townsend) speedy rebound leaves him beaten down – until he meets Felix’s kindergarten teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o). Fate offers Dave a chance to chaperone an upcoming petting zoo trip, where he plans to woo Miss Caroline. Too bad a zombie outbreak kills the mood as the class field trip turns into a nightmare survival scenario.
Despite adolescent endangerment, ravenous feasting circles, and hardcore zombie-on-human violence, Little Monsters pushes humor first (but yes it’s a godforsaken horror movie and don’t you start that argumentative bullshit). From the film’s opening, where Sara and Dave bicker effusively throughout a montage of their tanking relationship, the tone of Little Monsters is lively, lighthearted, and comical. Don’t expect to be scared or embrace Romero-level social commentary. Little Monsters prominently features ukelele Taylor Swift covers, unaware giggles, and Nyong’o’s patented brand of guardian angle divinity. It works! Just don’t expect blackened shadow crawlers or 28 Days Later hyper-aggression.
Forsythe’s vision is charmingly innocent, sincerely appreciative, and uniquely brutal like if Pee-wee’s Playhouse fell under apocalyptic damnation. Dave’s aversion to fatherhood is tested when Felix’s life is on the line, but Nyong’o’s spring into action never *once* loses caretaker cool.
Need to evade hordes of zombies? Miss Caroline instructs the children it’s a game of tag – look how good all the survivors are doing! Does a hayride sound fun? Miss Caroline sings “The Wheels On The Bus” as chomping zombies snap at youngsters who’ve been convinced dangers around them are levels in a game. Miss Caroline’s class is so genuine in their playful nature and unaware curiosity, delivering age-appropriate and adorably obedient performances – especially La Torraca whenever he dons his Darth Vader alter ego (a highlight).
Now to Ms. Nyong’o, who earns this next paragraph.
“Miss Caroline” is a legend of the zombie killer game. Nyong’o’s sacrifice honors those who care deeply for our children without hesitation – memorizing dietary allergies, offering their lives to nurture young minds and give every ounce of love doing so – to the point where if you endanger her flock, you’ve incurred swift wrath. Josh Gad’s egomaniacal celebrity kid’s show entertainer Teddy McGiggle discovers this the hard way when a broken souvenir figurine digs into his gut, Nyong’o ensuring him there’s no “negotiation” after Gad, in a matter of words, says “fuck the children” in a hysterical fit of fight or flight.
Miss Caroline’s shuffle-step conga line past lunging corpses, her Braveheart battle cry when facing a wall of walkers (separating teacher and students), the selling of blatant lies such as being covered in “strawberry jam” after decapitating multiple deadheads with a shovel – she is a top-calibre genre star who’s *finally* being given wheelhouse opportunities. May her ability to develop enriched characters within the most audacious scenarios only increase (also see: Us).
That’s not to say England’s heavy metal loser act isn’t crassly Australian yet lovable, nor is Gad’s off-the-deep-end daytime host to be missed. Teddy McGiggle is an alcoholic, sex-addicted, threat against juvenile humanity who stands out by only caring for himself. Drunkenly confiding in David his thirst for single moms or drinking down hand sanitizer for a buzz, with these dead, war-rattled eyes. His puppet sidekick Frogsy steals a few scenes – “Frogsy didn’t make it,” so perfect – but for how determined Dave and Miss Caroline remain on their goal, Gad’s stark raving hysterical dissenter will be many an audience favorite.
Just because children remain central to plot doesn’t mean Forsythe skimps on brutality. Little Monsters is a rich color palette tapestry of Pleasant Vally Farm signatures – putt-putt golf, baby lambs, haystack scarecrows – all dreadified by US government mistakes (and gruesome gore). Pitchforks pin zombies into tree bark while Gad goes feral on multiple underage zombies, screaming “I FUCKED YOUR MOTHER!” with every re-fatality. Horror hallmarks are alive and well thanks to gnarly prosthetic makeup on par with The Walking Dead or any mainstream subgenre equal. Plenty of death and destruction, just with “Courtesy and Courage” as the children’s school uniform reads.
Congratulations, Abe Forsythe. You’ve managed to create a hilarious and heartfelt ode to unsung heroes while making the horror fan in me squeal happy joy (*and* use “Sweet Caroline” without making me cringe). Little Monsters is delightfully deranged, sweetly savage, and committed to zombie outbreak damnation with five-star tightrope balance. Lupita Nyong’o is a revelation and the defender our bleak world needs, while Forsythe’s sense of humor keeps tonality serious black without sacrificing core beliefs. This is hands down a perfect weighing of zombie horrors and hilarious comedy that showcases *everything* the horror genre can accomplish – a kiddie-proofed Swiss Army knife notched with taken zombie lives.
Little Monsters is a must-see horror comedy that proves Lupita Nyong'o should be starring in far more horror movies than she's been offered at this point.