Writer and Director: Abe Forsythe
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Armed with nothing more than a ukulele and Taylor Swift’s back catalogue, a group of primary school children, along with their teacher, battle flesh-hungry zombies in this raucous comedy from Australia. Little Monsters promises to be a big hit at this year’s London Film Festival.
The zombie genre is definitely crowded. Season Ten of the earnest The Walking Dead is just around the corner, and other serious zombies have featured in 28 Days Later. But since then we’ve had plenty of comedy zombies, and romantic zombies and even Jane Austen zombies. Can Little Monsters bring anything new to the genre? No, but it certainly provides plenty of laughs and even some heart-warming tears.
David has left his girlfriend and has moved in with his sister and her hyper-allergic son, Felix. While his sister is making sure Felix doesn’t come into contact with dairy, nuts or gluten, David dresses him up as Darth Vader and lets him play zombie shoot ‘em ups long after he’s meant to be tucked up in bed.
Wanting to prove he’s more responsible, David starts taking Felix to school, but here he’s distracted by Felix’s schoolteacher, the effervescent Miss Caroline. Soon David has volunteered to escort her and her charges to a children’s zoo, which just happens to be situated next to a high security US army base. When the zombies escape, it’s clear that the living dead are not the only villains here.
In many ways, the set-up, which often touches on the tropes of gross-out comedy, is more entertaining than when our heroes first spy a zombie limping across a field, looking much like Worzel Gummidge. Indeed, there’s limit to how much comedy can be gained from dodging zombies.
Still, Little Monsters is always fun, even when the film veers into sentimentality, and it’s a credit to the two leads that we don’t mind too much the sugary interludes. As Miss Caroline, Lupita Nyong’o (Us, 12 Years a Slave) is a revelation, and it’s easy to get caught up in her perpetual optimism, and surely everyone will wish that they once had a primary teacher like her. David is played by Alexander England, and he’s totally believable as the guitar-swinging drop-out. The two of them are wonderfully supported by a cracking cast of kids, especially Diesel La Torraca as Felix, who manages to get the best laughs here.
Little Monsters won’t be giving anyone sleepless nights, and screams will be of laughter not of terror. Instead, you may come out singing Shake It Off by Taylor Swift wishing that your childhood had been as exciting as this.
The London Film Festival runs from 2 October to 13 October