GRIMMFEST 2019: Little Monsters – movie review

Little Monsters. Image credit: Courtesy of Grimmfest

I’ve been granted press accreditation for the 11th Grimmfest, the Manchester’s International Festival of Fantastic Film. So, I had the opportunity to watch and review a bunch of upcoming horror movies. This is my review of Little Monsters (Australia, Abe Forsythe, comedy/horror).

Starring the amazing Lupita Nyong’o and directed by Abe Forsythe, whose debut feature – Down Under, 2016 – was one impressive dark comedy, Little Monsters is probably the most anticipated horror film to screen at Grimmfest, together with Rabid. And it’s probably one of the most anticipated horror comedies of the year, alongside the disappointing The Dead Don’t Die and the now-available in American theatres Zombieland: Double Tap.

Little Monsters. Image credit, courtesy of Grimmfest 1
Little Monsters. Poster. Image credit: Courtesy of Grimmfest

Little Monsters follows Dave (Alexander England), a washed-up musician whose life’s been shredded into pieces and who’s very inappropriate around kids, especially his 5-year-old nephew Felix (Diesel La Torraca). When Dave’s sister forces him to take Felix to school, Dave falls for Miss Caroline (Nyong’o), the pretty and charming kindergarten teacher: the two of them take the children on a school trip where a sudden zombie outbreak turns the playful event into a nightmare. Dave, Miss Caroline and TV host Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad) must survive the zombie attacks, while also pretending it’s all a game so that the kids won’t freak out.


Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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If you’ve seen the trailer, you know what to expect from Little Monsters: a lot of comedy, a lot of gore and some silly zombie action. And this is exactly what the movie delivers: if you’re looking for those elements, Little Monsters won’t let you down, most likely.

Although the zombies are introduced in the second act of the film, Little Monsters still features plenty of blood and gore which, despite being played for laughter, was actually very effective and well-done with mostly practical effects. The makeup and costume design are, indeed, some of the most impressive aspects of this movie, as the zombies look very spooky, disgusting and threatening.

The comedy, however, balances their scary appearance very well: the playful score (which is quite derivative, though) and the songs played with guitar and ukulele are rather light-hearted, creating a nice and cute contrast with the violent zombie attacks and the frequent mutilation sequences. What’s most surprising about the humour in Little Monsters is how unflinching and raunchy it is: the comedy provided by Dave and Teddy McGiggle, in particular, is very offensive, tasteless and politically incorrect. While this will definitely offend some viewers, the fact that other characters react in a disgusted way is what makes it acceptable to me, because it means that the filmmakers knew those moments were intended as jokes and not as some sort of distasteful agenda.

Little Monsters. Image credit, courtesy of Grimmfest
Little Monsters. Image credit: Courtesy of Grimmfest

Personally, I laughed way more often with Little Monsters (14 times) than I usually do with horror-comedies that try way too hard to be funny, but resort to the same old tricks. There are some jokes and gags that don’t fully work, but that depends more on one’s sense of humour rather than the quality of the film. Lupita Nyong’o, who’s fantastic as usual, provided some elements of seriousness and paired them with some hilarious situational comedy in a way that truly elevates the movie.

Alexander England, co-star of this picture, was pretty great as well, as we see his initially unlikeable character mature throughout the runtime, and he delivers all the different phases quite well. Every other character was decent, even the kids weren’t as annoying as I was afraid they would be: aside from the leads, no one else had a proper development or any depth, but they were likeable/fleshed-out enough not to ruin any scene.

Speaking of characters, one of the biggest issues with Little Monsters is that, between the second and third act, the pacing comes to a screeching halt during a dialogue-driven scene where the two leads blatantly explain themselves (and, thus, the audience) their motivations and personality. A more seasoned director would’ve had their personality traits spread throughout the movie, as opposed to craft a sequence that affects negatively the pacing, feels derivative and treats the audience in a rather disrespectful way.

Even though this film is never really original, there’s one plot device that truly feels lazy and unimaginative: Felix is shown to have a serious allergy to gluten, which is made evident in painfully obvious details early on in the movie. As soon as that happened, it was so excruciatingly clear that this would’ve been used as a mere plot device to either save or put the characters in danger. And, obviously, that’s exactly what happened. This kind of cliché is used in so many movies (World War Z, Signs, The Boy Next Dore, Panic Room…), to the point it’s become one of the most noticeable tricks. Some people might consider this paragraph to be just nit-pick, but when such a tropey decision ruins the anticipation for one or more scenes it’s a severe issue for me.

Although I really had a great time watching Little Monsters, there’s one specific aspect that prevents this film from being great. It’s visually very dull and, while hilarious and entertaining, there isn’t a single visual or story-related element that makes it stand out: it doesn’t have the creative presentation of One Cut of the Dead, it’s not as ground-breaking as The Return of the Living Dead, it doesn’t have the exhilarating editing and framing style of Shaun of the Dead, it’s not as charmingly cartoonish as the first 2/3 or Zombieland, it doesn’t feature the jaw-dropping effects of Braindead (Dead Alive, if you live in the US), and so on. It’s a great watch, but it’s not as memorable as those zom-coms that truly impacted the sub-genre.

I believe most people are going to love this movie: Little Monsters is fast-paced, gory, darkly comedic and playfully hilarious. My girlfriend, for example, really loved it and found my complaints with the movie not to be as relevant to ruin the experience. Even though I probably will not watch Little Monsters again, I had a great and entertaining time seeing it, and I would easily recommend any fan of zom-coms to give it a go.

Little Monsters                                              7/10*

*Little Monsters is now available on Hulu in the United States, it’ll soon be available in theatres in France (October 18th) and UK (November 15th)

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