Chaperoning a class of 6-year-olds can be a nightmare, especially when zombies start trying to tear out their guts. Little Monsters is the newest Australian, comedy-horror release that asks: “what if Shaun of the Dead happened on a school trip to a petting-farm?”
Promotional material for Little Monsters was clearly trying to capitalise off Nyong’o’s recent success in the horror genre, following her captivatingly sinister performance in Us, by framing her as the main character in this feature. A confusing decision when she doesn’t even show up for the first 15 minutes of the film. Instead the film opens with a couple going through various heated screaming matches. After checking you’re definitely in the right film screening (twice), you eventually figure out your lead is actually the man in this argument, Dave (Alexander England). Dave is a crude, emotionally inept, washed up musician who, after breaking up with aforementioned screaming girlfriend, goes to live with his sister and her young son.
After Dave takes his nephew to school, we’re finally introduced to Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), everyone’s favourite ukulele-playing teacher who is unfortunately saddled with the role of love-interest. Dave agrees to help chaperone a class trip only to be closer to Miss Caroline in his increasingly cringey sleazing. Upon arrival to the farm, we’re also introduced to Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad), playing a children’s entertainer who amazingly manages to be even more unlikable than Dave as it’s soon revealed he’s a rude, selfish, class-A prick. Set on an adorable petting farm in the warm, grassy countryside, the only typical horror element of this location is a sinister US army base located just down the road, where zombies soon escape from to play havoc.
Nyong’o is a ray of sunshine in this film, matching her character’s instant likability factor. Sundress wearing and endlessly cheerful, Miss Caroline is unfortunately a classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl. However, thankfully the trope is turned on its head slightly as Miss Caroline is far from the helpless side-character. When it comes down to kicking-ass and killing zombies, Miss Caroline takes the lead. She is a badass, strong and capable zombie killer who manages to keep the disastrous male characters from falling apart all while singing cheerful songs to distract the children from all the carnage outside. Despite her more fleshed-out character, it’s still disappointing to watch Nyong’o play second fiddle to man-child Dave on his journey of how-to-not-be-a-prick. Perfect angelic woman teaching loathsome and pathetic man is a narrative that should have been battered to death like a rouge zombie years ago so it’s inclusion in this film was disheartening.
The film has plenty of the classic, blunt Australian humour. There’s enough crude jabs and tasteless slurs dropped to make anyone wince, but all are delivered with the cheeky Australian nature that somehow dissolves away most uncomfortable feelings. Each inappropriate comment is topped by the next off-colour remark as the film plays with what’s acceptable to address in a film where half the cast are children. Gad’s character in particular is a nasty caricature of celebrity selfishness and takes the lead in being a jackass, perhaps to try and distract audience’s dislike away from Dave’s equally distasteful nature.
Gore fans may not be as satisfied as they would be by full-out zombie flicks, however we’re still served with plenty of blood and guts on the side of our kills. Our zombies in this film are of the slow variety and won’t be winning any sprints against types from World War Z but their sheer mass is what brings the threat as most attendees to the petting-farm succumb to the zombie virus almost instantaneously, meaning we’re treated to the sight of teen girls in their innocent looking Catholic School attire slowly chasing down a confused-looking lamb.
Though Little Monsters isn’t the strongest of horrors or most cohesive of comedies, the film is still entertaining and takes props for being an interesting twist on the zombie genre. At the very least, this film certainly takes the award for most sing-alongs in a film where people have their faces ripped off by the carnivorous undead.
by Michaela Barton
Michaela is a freelance journalist living in Glasgow who watches far too much Netflix so might as well make a career out of it. Her one true love is procrastination but she’s also a fan of feminist and queer theory, ugly dad shirts, and abducting cats. You can find her on Twitter at @MichaelaBarton_