SXSW 2019 – Review: LITTLE MONSTERS Is A Zombie Film With More Heart Than Brains

little monsters poster

Little Monsters is a new horror-comedy film written and directed by Abe Forsythe and starring Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad. The movie follows a former musician, Kindergarten teacher, and disgruntled children’s television show host as they attempt to survive a zombie attack while on a field trip with a group of Kindergarten students. It debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and then played at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

Some people are going to think that the combination of kids and zombies is something new and creative. It has been done before, to a slightly more successful extent, in 2014’s Cooties starring Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson. That being said, even though it may not be the most original movie, Little Monsters is still a hell of a lot of fun to watch and has plenty of great moments and quotable lines.

One of the reasons this film works quite well is that its characters are very interesting. The arcs that they experience over the course of the movie are definitely somewhat predictable, but the characters are compelling nonetheless. Dave, who is arguably the protagonist of the film, starts out in a way that is somewhat annoying, but he ultimately becomes more sympathetic as the movie goes on. Miss Caroline and Teddy McGiggle are both hilarious from the beginning of the film and never lose interest.

This movie is definitely meant more as a comedy than it is as a horror. The satirical premise of the film works quite well for the most part. There are a ton of funny moments, especially once the action gets going. The first twenty minutes or so are a bit slower than the rest of the movie, as this time is used to set up the premise and humor of the rest of the movie, but the amount of laughs is still very effective.

little monsters dress

On the other hand, the film isn’t nearly as good at building suspense as it is at delivering laughs, and this is where the movie is inferior to the earlier Cooties. There just isn’t that much suspense because the script is predictable. You know what is going to happen, so why would you be on the edge of your seat? There are a few exciting scenes, particularly those involving Max, but the film generally wasn’t super impressive in terms of scares or action.

The performances are a majority of what makes this movie worth watching. Lupita Nyong’o is absolutely wonderful in her role, nailing the humor, heart, and badass qualities of the character. Josh Gad is absolutely hilarious in his supporting role, delivering a turn that is over-the-top and fun to watch. His performance may be too much for some people, though, and those people are likely to enjoy the film less. The child actor Diesel La Torraca also does a great job in his roles.

In technical terms, the movie is mostly strong, having a very energetic style and tone throughout. The makeup for the zombies looks very creepy and is even impressive in the scenes that feature many of them. The production design is also very strong, doing a great job of creating the world in which the film is set. The McGiggles aspects of the movie are particularly strong.

Overall, Little Monsters was a fun but somewhat straightforward horror-comedy. The performances, particularly those by Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad, are worth the price of admission alone.

Little Monsters played at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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