Little Monsters (SXSW 2019)

Little Monsters (SXSW 2019) Cover

Little Monsters is written and directed by Abe Forsythe. I had the chance to see it at the SXSW film festival back in March and I never thought I’d be writing a review for it, as I did not think this disposable comedy would ever see the light of day outside of the festival. To my dismay, people love it. It’s at an 88% on the tomato-meter at the time of this review being written and you can find this zombie comedy streaming on Hulu October 11th. However, I think the comedy is lackluster and that the characters are awfully hollow.

Lupita Nyong’o plays an elementary school teacher named Ms. Carol, and one day she takes her class on what should be an exciting field trip to Pleasant Valley Farm! Dave, played by Alexander England, has a nephew in Ms. Carol’s class and so he decides to volunteer to go on the trip, secretly having a crush on the teacher. This trip should be fun but unfortunately zombies show up! The film focuses on Dave and Ms. Carol working with a sly kids personality host, who’s played by Josh Gad, in order to escape the hordes of zombies, while keeping a class of kids under control.

Zombies amidst kids would create opportunities for true disturbance but unfortunately the screenplay calls for Nyong’o’s character to be unrealistically fearless. This is apparent when she chooses to bust out a guitar and sing a song despite all the dangers that surround them. I understand she is a teacher and wants to stay calm so the children don’t become wildly worried. Unfortunately, this indifferent attitude she has towards supernatural zombies that show up ruined any form of realistic intrigue that the zombie premise brings. She proceeds to lie in order to prevent the children from thinking there’s any real danger, explaining that they’re playing a game of tag. “It’s a part of the game. The zombies aren’t real,” she tells them. There’s nothing scary or eerie about this story or these zombies, which is fine- the creators clearly are not going for that. The problem is there’s not much else it does successfully either.

Since there’s no realism to admire, the film relies heavily on comedy, which apparently I’m the only one who didn’t find funny. Josh Gad has never annoyed me to the degree that he does in this film. His character is unreasonably harsh, trapping the kids and Ms. Carrol outside of the only enclosed area they can flee from the zombies. The humor derives mostly from the adults trying to keep the kids calm, the adults having arguments about what they should be focused on or be doing, and bottom-of-the-barrel physical harm humor. There’s a forgettable romance that develops between Nyong’o and Englands’ characters shoved in the middle of all of that.

Little Monsters is similar to Anna and the Apocalypse, which both feature zombies, comedy, and music (Anna featuring more choreographed musical style songs). The one undeniably commendable aspect of Little Monsters is the full effort you can see Lupita Nyong’o putting forth in her performance. Unfortunately, the comedy misses and the film misses an opportunity to take a more serious approach.

Final Verdict:The comedy is lackluster and the characters are awfully hollow.