Sundance 2019 Review: Little Monsters is the must-see horror comedy of the year.
Little Monsters premiered at Sundance as part of the Midnight section. In recent years, at least one film premiering in this section ends up being one of the most talked about horror films of the year. Recent examples of this include Hereditary, Get Out, The Babadook, The Witch and What We Do in the Shadows. This year, it has to be Little Monsters, an outrageous horror comedy about a group of kindergarteners who get caught up in a zombie outbreak while on a field trip at a local farm.
One of my favorite films of 2018 was Anna and the Apocalypse, a zombie horror comedy musical. Little Monsters is a horror comedy with a bunch of children trapped on a farm trying to avoid being killed by zombies. They are both equally ridiculous in concept, but Little Monsters is far more inappropriate. While these two films are very different in a lot of ways, they do have a few things in common. They were both independently produced, and while they feature a lot of blood and gore, they also have plenty of humor and heart. I have said this before but I love and admire how independent filmmakers aren’t afraid of taking the risk, and these two films are perfect examples of how an outlandish idea can be turned into one hell of a good time.
Little Monsters is a horror comedy that will appeal to a much wider-demographic than your typical horror fan. Director Abe Forsythe has created a film that fully embraces its absurdities. You can’t help but laugh when Dave (Alexander England) slams the door against a little kid named Max after he bullies his nephew Felix (Diesel La Torraca). As a 36-year-old adult, I know that it’s wrong to do that, but it doesn’t make watching it happen any less funny. Right from the start, Dave is introduced as someone who shouldn’t be in charge of looking after kids, but that doesn’t stop him from chaperoning a field trip. It should also be mentioned that Dave didn’t volunteer to chaperone out of the kindness of his heart but because he saw the trip as an opportunity to hit on Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o).
If the character of Dave isn’t inappropriate enough, Forsythe adds in a children’s television personality named Teddy McGiggle, played by the always amazing Josh Gad. A little background on Teddy, he went to acting school and was trained by Al Pacino. However, his career never took off, so he ended up hosting a children’s television show. Teddy is known for his wacky laugh and singing songs about what to do when adults say bad words. However, when the zombie outbreak occurs, Teddy’s sweet on-air personality quickly disappears, and we see him for what he truly is; a shining example of toxic masculinity that plagues the Hollywood system.
Joining England and Gad is Lupita Nyong’o as Miss Caroline. Nyong’o portrays Miss Caroline as a kindergarten teacher with a heart of gold. Her number one priority is taking care of her students, and throughout this zombie outbreak, she does everything in her power to protect the children including kicking some zombie ass. After seeing Nyong’o in mostly serious roles over the past several years, it’s refreshing to see her in a role that allows her to let loose and have fun. This is quite possibly one of my favorite characters that she has ever taken on because it feels so unlike anything we have seen her do before, and she kills it.
Little Monsters works so well at being entertaining and hysterical because Forsythe took such an outrageous idea and just ran with it. The fact that Forsythe wasn’t afraid of pairing edgy humor and themes with heart is what makes it such an irresistible crowdpleaser. I don’t know of any other film that has celebrated Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” in one scene and then heavy metal in the next. Or how the movie can be so full of heart in certain scenes, while others feature a misogynistic children’s television personality who does nothing but drink, curse, and share stories about how he slept with a bunch of moms whose children were fans of his show.
There is also something to be said about how the film serves as a love letter to teachers. Between all the blood, gore, and profanity, the film successfully shows how a great teacher like Miss Caroline can make a difference in a child’s life. Even in the middle of a zombie outbreak, Miss Caroline never loses her cool and is constantly trying to make sure her students are distracted from the horrible things going on around them.
In one scene, Dave’s dairy-allergic nephew Felix ends up eating some chips that contain dairy. He needs his EpiPen, which is still on the bus. Determined to help, Miss Caroline sneaks out of the clubhouse and fights off zombies to get the EpiPen from the tractor. Of course, this is an incredibly outrageous situation, but it is just one of the many scenes that consistently shows how much Miss Caroline will go above and beyond for the safety and protection of her students.
With 200+ films playing at Sundance over 10 days, Little Monsters stands out as one of the most outrageously entertaining films to come out of this year’s festival. Forsythe and the cast perfectly blur the lines of genre creating a horror comedy that is wildly original and destined to be one of the most talked about films of 2019. I can only hope that studios take notice of this film and Forsythe’s talent because, as a first-time filmmaker, he knocked it out of the park. Little Monsters is a bloody good time and the must-see horror comedy of the year.