Field Trip of the Dead – Little Monsters (BFI London Film Festival Review)

Rating:

With enough brain and heart to munch upon to make you rethink your notion that you’ve seen it all when it comes to zombie movies. This Australian horror-comedy comes laced with a delightfully crass wit and an even more pleasing heart as it goes about its way to tell a story of seizing your moment, growing up and finding a way to see the light in the darkest of situations.

David (Alexander England) is a slacker going nowhere in life. His band is no more, and he has just broken up with his long term girlfriend, forcing him to go live with his sister, Tess (Kat Stewart), and her young son Felix (Diesel La Torraca). When David takes Felix to Kindergarten one day, he instantly falls for Felix’s teacher, the radiant Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o). Keen to impress her, he agrees to help chaperone a school field trip to a petting zoo. Unfortunately for them, it just so happens to coincide with a zombie outbreak. With a whole class of kids to look out for, now is the time for David to prove his worth and maybe even find his purpose along the way.

Little Monsters is very much a comedy first and horror movie second. To even call it a horror seems a bit of a stretch. Yes, there are flesh-eating zombies, but they end up operating more of a driving force for pushing along character development in the most extreme of situations. Director Abe Forsythe has a lot of fun laying down little rules and traits of his zombie horde, but he very much makes the assumption that audiences kinda get how these sort of things operate by this point. As a result, the film maintains a breezy atmosphere that isn’t too preoccupied with the details.

Free from feeling the need to get too bogged down in the details of his outbreak, Forsythe is able to use his film as a containment more for a sweet story that demonstrates a maintains a great deal of entertainment through its establishment of flawed characters who are a gentle mix of a little pathetic, a little hopeless but for the most part well-intentioned. That is largely personified by David, played with a lovable crassness by Alexander England; he’s rude, funny and strikes up great chemistry with the cast, particularly with the young La Torraca as his nephew, who puts in one of the best child performances of recent memory.

The star if the show, though, is in its hook, line, and sinker of an A-list star. Nyong’o exudes the charm and grace that very much enables you to believe that this teacher is very much a superhero to the kids in her care. She once again proves just how incredibly capable she is as a performer with sharp comic timing and of course, absolutely kick-ass when wielding a spade. Josh Gad is also on great form, clearly having a ball tearing into his own squeaky clean Disney persona as the children’s entertainer whose family-friendly demeanour soon begins to deteriorate in the face of a zombie threat.

Little Monsters is a horror comedy with its mind more on its characters than it is in doing anything all that wild in terms of revising the zombie movie rulebook, and that in itself allows it stand apart from the horde. It stands as a film that is both wickedly crude and delightfully sweet, satisfyingly gory and surprisingly heartfelt, Forsythe’s film stands as a zombie comedy that proves there’s life in the undead yet.

Dir: Abe Forsythe

Scr: Abe Forsythe

Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England, Kat Stewart, Diesel La Torraca, Josh Gad

Prd: Jodi Matterson, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky, Keith Calder, Jessica Calder

DOP: Lachlan Milne

Music: Piers Burbrook de Vere

Country: Australia/UK/USA

Year: 2019

Run time: 94 mins

Little Monsters will be on general release on November 15th

 

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