Field trips can be some of the most enjoyable times during childhood.
They offer a day out of the classroom to pretend to learn, hang out with your friends, and buy a non-packed lunch (if you could be so lucky to receive some cash).
But in the case of the kindergarten class featured in Aussie zom-com Little Monsters, an outbreak of zombies could prove deadly for this field trip.
Director Abe Forsythe, whose credits include the TV series’ Laid and Fireflies, delivers the blood-soaked goods with this charming small-budget romp. What begins as an exploration on maturity for recently single Dave (Alexander England) transforms into a cabin-fever-style fight for survival.
Dave, a kindergarten class, his nephew Felix (adorably portrayed by Diesel La Torraca), their teacher Miss Caroline (a wonderful Lupita Nyong’o) and a Wiggles-esque children’s entertainer that hides a dark side (Josh Gad), band together to survive a horde of zombies that have escaped a mysterious U.S. testing facility.
Their barricading in a gift shop forcing Dave to come to terms with his readiness to be a father while also allowing Miss Caroline to prove how terrifying she is when push comes to shove. If you thought Arnie was a scary kindergarten teacher, then beware of Miss Caroline. This mother goose has got retractable fangs.
Forsythe forces Little Monsters into a corner by setting a large part of the film within the gift shop. The film finds (and creates) any reason for Dave and co. to leave the safety of the shop. The result of this exposing trite dialogue (please can horror films be done with characters being forced to treat inconvenient illnesses by searching for medicine) that finds the film un-organically force itself into situations so it can illicit tension.
The fear stakes never pay off due to Forsythe’s hesitance to display gratuitous violence – cutting away before showing any gruesomeness – in addition to the non-threatening nature of the slow-moving, brain-dead zombies. This can also be said about the numbskull U.S. Military and their unnecessary involvement within the film.
Underwhelming violence aside, Little Monsters works at a character level thanks to a talented slew of actors who bring the humour. Nyong’o is the saving grace of Little Monsters. She conducts the duality of her character with aplomb and her rendition of a certain banger – featuring heavily throughout – is sure to delight even the biggest of haters. It may be surprising to hear that music has such a considerable impact on the film, but its inclusion adds some welcome personality.
Despite some narrative shortcomings, Little Monsters is a cute romp that signals a promising future for Australian genre flicks.
Originally, the producers couldn’t get the rights to use Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” in the film, as they were denied by the record label. Lupita Nyong’o is a big fan of the song and saw it as pivotal part of the screenplay, which led her to personally get in touch with Swift to explain why the song was important to her and the narrative, after which Swift granted her the rights.