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Lupita Nyong’o Helps Make “Little Monsters” A Lot Of Fun

Zombies just seem to go really well with genre mashups. A straight zombie movie? Sometimes, especially lately, that can feel lacking. It’s when the walking dead, as it were, are mixed with other cinematic elements, that the undead really sing. Little Monsters is another example of this, finding a mixture of horror and romantic comedy, all taking place while on a school trip. It’s an unlikely pairing, but it truly works, due in no small part to the talents of Lupita Nyong’o. She’s absolutely aces here.

The film is a mix of horror and rom com. After a relationship filled with arguing, Dave (Alexander England) has broken up with his girlfriend, something she ultimately takes better than he does. A struggling musician and screwup, he’s decided to try and get over the situation be staying with his sister and spending more time with his young nephew Felix (Diesel La Torraca). Taking him to school one day, he comes across Felix’s teacher Miss Caroline (Nyong’o), who captures his fancy. In an effort to woo her, he volunteers to chaperone a school trip. At first, it’s just a boring field trip, one where Dave really doesn’t have much chance to charm Miss Caroline. However, next door, a military testing site has unleashed a zombie outbreak. Dave’s plans suddenly are much different. As Miss Caroline proves adept at protecting the kids, Dave and a children’s television personality Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad) need to get over themselves in order to survive. Through it all, Dave may just find some responsibility, perhaps even winning over Miss Caroline in the process. Abe Forsythe writes and directs, with cinematography from Lachlan Milne and a score by Piers Burbrook de Vere. Rounding out the cast, we have Stephen Peacocke, Kat Stewart, Nadia Townsend, and more.

Mixing the specificity of teaching young children with the horror of a zombie outbreak proves to be rather fertile ground for Little Monsters, an effective hybrid genre effort. Forsythe gets the details of being a schoolteacher spot on, while ably making the zombie elements unsettling enough, though always close to comedic. It’s a fine line he walks, but he manages to do it well, recalling Edgar Wright’s work with Shaun of the Dead. It’s not as terrific as that one, but it does manage to consistently entertain, almost from start to finish. The first act is slightly protracted, while the end runs out of a bit of steam, but the middle is deliciously fun.

Lupita Nyong’o is terrific here, as funny as she is a badass heroine. While Alexander England and Josh Gad are fine (though both get annoying at times, somewhat intentionally so), Nyong’o is pitch perfect. She’s as at home being a teacher as she is being a zombie killer. It’s a harder performance to pull off than you might expect, but she hits every single note with ease. As good as she is in Jordan Peele’s Us earlier this year, which will have her in Oscar contention in the Best Actress category, she’s arguably better here. In a just world, she’d be in play just as much for an Academy Award citation for this one as she will be for that one.

Starting today, anyone looking for a unique take on a zombie flick would do well to give Little Monsters a shot. Right now, the film is playing in theaters as a special presentation, though come this weekend, it’ll be available on Hulu. That’s how most of you will see this one, but Nyong’o and company make this worth looking for in theaters. The movie breathes some fresh life into a previously all but tired genre, and that’s always a plus. Give it a look and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Little Monsters, in theaters today, as well as on Hulu this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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