Little did Lupita Nyong’o know, I suppose, that when she signed onto a zombie comedy called Little Monsters, the zombies would be behind the camera, and all the jokes would be on her. I guess every genre nut has at least one high concept slice of low art they’d eat someone else’s brains to get the chance to turn into a fully-fledged feature (with an Oscar winner, no less, on board!), though if they must insist on eating someone else’s ideas, they could at least try to digest some of their technical competence too. Just some! Perhaps just a starter-sized portion? A snack? An after-dinner mint? Anything?
If there are movies out there for everyone, and if any movie possesses the possibility of appealing to anyone, it’s by no means a criticism to state that Little Monsters is the perfect movie for a particularly immature 12-year-old boy. But if said particularly immature 12-year-old boy must have his cinematic appetite sated, there’s no reason he couldn’t do so with something better than this. For even on its own meagre terms, Abe Forsythe’s Aussie horror comedy fails horribly, falling so far short of its countless influences as to almost draw shame upon them. Shame, however, is drawn directly onto anyone involved in making this stinker of a wannabe-cult item, and I’ll be so obnoxious to deflect at least some of that shame on to anyone who enjoys it. Are you a particularly immature 12-year-old boy? If so, do grow up, and if not, do grow up.
I’m sick of scribbling out the same monotonous critiques of the same loathsome movies swinging every which way just to solicit some sort of redemption for their reprehensible heterosexual white manchild protagonists, so I’ll bypass that here (save, naturally, to ensure I’ve mentioned it) and devote some more space to explaining just how incompetent Little Monsters is at taking those swings. There’s virtually no commitment to sense, no diligence in the craft, as longueurs are taken to indulge in the most tiresome comic setpieces (almost entirely devoid of anything resembling good comedy, alas), while shortcuts are taken to drag the movie from one narrative marker to the next. Shoddily-executed horror violence and broad comedy are thrown in next to obligatory plot developments in a cacophonous mess of confusion, with key details overlooked, perspectives muddied, characters and subplots abandoned at random and a general air of “Fuck It!” pervading the whole enterprise.
It’s all too generic and overblown to earn any of the genre creds it so desperately seeks, assembled from second-rate rehashes of mediocre ideas. From the very first scene, chronicling a troubled relationship’s messy, argumentative end, Little Monsters has the timbre of a movie conceptualized, written and directed by an alien masquerading as a filmmaker, hoping their earnest approximation of human behaviour is sufficient to fool this planet’s native dominant species. Somehow, the masquerade seems to have fooled Lupita Nyong’o, but it’s certainly not fooling me. I’m no particularly immature 12-year-old boy, and this is far from the perfect movie for me.
This review is from the 2019 BFI London Film Festival.