At this point what haven’t we seen done onscreen with zombies? We’ve seen zombies in shopping malls. We’ve seen zombies face off against cockneys. We’ve seen Jane Austen mixed with zombies. We’ve seen zombie radio waves. We’ve even seen zombie beavers! So, what’s next? Well, in this case, an Australian school field trip to an animal farm…with zombies!
The plot centres on washed up musician Dave (Alexander England), whose romantic life has fallen apart and one day when picking up his nephew from kindergarten he sees a chance at a fresh start in vibrant and beloved teacher Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) and soon manages to land himself a place on the upcoming field trip. Naturally things go south, when a nearby U.S. Testing Facility unleashes the wrath of the undead and Dave and Miss Caroline must do what they can to save the day and their class.
Starting off with a strong set-up that establishes the main characters and elicits some great laughs in the process (Darth Vader is comic gold here!), this Sky Original production (released both in select cinemas and on Sky TV) is often a genuine hoot. Borrowing heavily from the zombie genre guide, writer/director Abe Forsythe has the sense to have a laugh at the expense of its cliches and some of the action plays out like a farm-set Dead Rising. Having said that, yes, it’s madcap but could be madder and frankly you have seen some of this kind of thing before and by the end it does kind of become a generic post-apocalyptic style zombie caper, with moments of survival connecting characters and military saviours being the hope and danger in equal measure.
That being said, the script really does work well quite often and even as some gags run out of steam and some profane laughs don’t quite hit the mark, the setting allows for some fun sight gags and when the script works it really is a dark bloody delight. One particular example is in Josh Gad’s out of control children’s entertainer Teddy McGiggle, who is scarily accurate of many real entertainers and is clearly relishing being a filthy depraved character after Disney roles like Olaf and LeFou!
It also helps that the film has a quite genuine heart, with Dave being redeemed by his connection to his nephew and Miss Caroline’s persistence to save her kids and normalise the situation being quietly inspiring. However, as little a moment as it may seem, there is a sequence with a lamb that is baffling. Seemingly introduced to set up a heartwarming moment later but never doing so, it leaves a gaping hole in the film that feels unshakable and will leave many viewers asking, “what the hell happened to the lamb?” And rightly so!
I digress, Lupita Nyong’o’s performance really drives the film and – like something out of Walking Dead – when she leaps into action, she is exciting, dangerous and driven. Nyong’o’s Miss Caroline really ought to be the lead character here and while England’s Dave initially feels a bit vapid, he – as previously mentioned – becomes redeemed later in the film and England does well in the part overall. While the largely youthful cast fares strongly alongside huge talents like Josh Gad and Nyong’o.
Little Monsters sees Forsythe aim for Shaun of the Dead meets Nativity! And it works rather well, making for a fun midnight movie gore-fest with a surprisingly large heart to boot. Still, that lamb guys…not cool.