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‘Little Monsters’ (review)

Produced by Jodi Matterson,
Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky,
Keith Calder, Jessica Calder

Written and Directed by Abe Forsythe
Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England,
Kat Stewart, Diesel La Torraca, Josh Gad

 

Often imitated but never duplicated, Shaun of the Dead still stands as not only one of the greatest horror comedies of all time, but also as possibly the greatest zombie comedy ever made. While Edgar Wright’s 2004 effort was hardly the first of its ilk, as Peter Jackson’s hilariously outrageous Braindead and its record-breaking amounts of fake blood had gained the Kiwi feature instant cult status after its 1992 release, it nonetheless seemed that Shaun of the Dead was released at the right time to be seen as the epitome of what horror comedies can be.

With its myriad of pop culture references and being released at a time where zombies were about to burst out of the horror subgenre bracket and into the mainstream entertainment subconscious, Shaun of the Dead essentially became responsible for spawning an onslaught of gory comedies.

However, thanks to often very modest budgets, underwhelming effects and writing that usually seems like little more than an afterthought, few films have managed to come anywhere even remotely close to capturing the witty eclecticism that has made the 2004 film a classic.

With Little Monsters, Aussie writer and director Abe Forsythe offers up the latest attempt of placing a zombie romp alongside Edgar Wright’s 2004 cult classic, and like most zombie comedies in recent decades, Little Monsters is a mixed bag.

Boasting a largely questionable resume in terms of previous features he has starred in, male lead Alexander England nonetheless makes a likable protagonist as the flawed manchild with a heart of gold. An anti-hero, he must embark on a character arc to redeem himself and grow, and while he inevitably does become a better person, he still stumbles along the way, often reverting to his immature ways with puerile hilarity.

Lupita Nyong’o is unsuprisingly the cast member who largely carries the film on her competent shoulders, and she is as enjoyable as usual to watch, not least because she clearly has an immense amount of fun playing the part of the zombie-slaying teacher. Her charisma as magnetic as ever, she works well with her costars, both children and grownups alike, and much like her character takes charge of the apocalyptic scenario in the story, she also takes charge of the film.

Similarly, Josh Gad clearly has a great time as he pokes fun at himself and a career that has been full of overly perky, family-friendly characters. Going from obnoxiously cheerful kids show host to egocentric jerk (arguably traits that are not mutually exclusive), his character descends into amusingly foul-mouthed despair.

As much as the film manages to provoke laughter on several occasions thanks to the playfulness of the cast and a script that never pretends to be aiming to possess any degree of maturity, the humor does, however, come across as somewhat forced at times. While the main trio of performances and the script are the film’s strong points, the decidedly pedestrian production value of elements such as score, direction, cinematography, editing and special effects ultimately prevent Little Monsters from escaping mediocrity and reaching full-blown chaotically hilarious zombie mayhem.

Lacking a sincere sense of menace and genuine threat, the zombies are not portrayed in a way that has sufficient tension or gore. As a result, the comedy therefore does not have a significant level of true horror to help both the scary and the silly offset one another to create the momentum and mounting tension a horror comedy inevitably needs to succeed, meaning that Little Monsters ultimately has more in common with the likes of Cockneys versus Zombies than Shaun of the Dead. As such, Little Monsters is therefore not a bad zombie comedy, but it is a disposable romp that is a easily forgotten as it is enjoyed.

Verdict: 6 out of 10.

 

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