Movie Review: Little Monsters

Little Monsters is about David, a loser who's at the end of his rope. He moves in with his older sister and volunteers to be the chaperone for his nephew Felix's class trip to the petting zoo so he can get closer to Felix's attractive teacher. Of course, the American military complex next door is doing experiments with the undead and they lose containment, zombie horror hijinks ensue. The film stars Lupita Nyong'o, Josh Gad and Alexander England. It is written and directed by Abe Forsythe

I can say I'm a fan of the zomcom subgenre. I love Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and last year's musical Anna and the Apocalypse. I wish Little Monsters had spent longer in the apocalypse of it all like the other examples I mentioned. The film falters when it attempts to be something else or if you're paying attention, attempts to live up to the play on words in its title.

The zombie outbreak, which is usually the feature of a film like this is almost like an afterthought as it doesn't appear until a third of the way into the movie and we're stuck with an unlikable, and most of all, un-charming leading man. Yes, he grows into a better human, but he's a little too much of a dick at the beginning to care deeply about his transformation at the end.

Where this movie gets it right is in Miss Caroline and Teddy McGiggles. Lupita Nyong'o is an absolute treasure as Miss Caroline and is able to balance the action heroine pieces with her nurturing and level-headed in the face of danger kindergarten teacher. I could watcher read a phone book, or just a whole movie where she's threatening Josh Gad with souvenirs.

The times in this film I laughed out loud were all because of Josh Gad as Teddy McGiggles, the American children's performer and TV star. He's crass, an alcoholic and he's just the right amount of terribly awful to make him a delight to watch. He can turn on that goofy charm for the kids, but when backed into a corner, he has the menace of a villain. It's the perfect role for Gad and stay after the credits for the incredible song that is "Teddy's Lament."

What I never like about these types of films is if children and adorable animals are put in mortal danger. I'm totally fine with seeing kids in zombie makeup, munching a fresh corpse or chasing after a victim, but never show the kids in real danger. Luckily for most of this film, the children are kept safe and given some calming fibs so they don't try and do something foolish, but there is a sequence I nearly closed my eyes. Felix, David the main character's nephew, runs out of the safety of their hiding place to try and save David's bacon as he's become trapped trying to get to a vehicle. Felix's dressed in his Darth Vader costume and at different points uses the "force," which made me cringe because he stops running to do it. No thank you. I don't need my heart pounding at that. No, not for me. Thankfully that's as scary as it gets for the kids, the rest of the time, they're easily able to defend themselves from the slow moving menace.

There are some interesting techniques in camera movements and the practical effects are fun and gross, but without those two wonderful supporting performances to bolster the film, Little Monsters is pretty typical horror comedy. It's one to put on this Halloween if you aren't in the mood for a serious gore fest or one of the "thoughtful," "elevated" horror films of the last few years. It's now streaming on Hulu or if you live in a larger city, it may be playing in a theater this weekend.

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