Caught a press show of the new local movie Little Monsters. It’s a bit like the Fat Pizza guys had been invited to make a submission for L’Étrange Film Festival. Little Monsters actually went to Sitges.
Australian horror films have been on a status roller coaster. There was a moment when they were seen as a shameful way of diverting tax revenue from our nice films with girls in bonnets performing in front of freshly painted historic buildings. Then they got to be (chuckle*) Ozploitation and, about the time the Saw films showed up, they became a responsible way of going into the market.
This one starts with some character defining stuff with man child Alexander England (above) that gives a chance to get in some acting from Kat Stewart (Offspring) as his single mother sister and some boobs from his cheating ex. Thrown out of his current resting place, failed musician Englund volunteers to take Stewart’s son Diesel La Torraca to kindie, where uncle is so taken with the kid’s form mistress Lupita Nyong'o (Black Panther, Star Wars VII, below)) that he volunteers as teacher’s aide on the excursion to Pleasant Valley Farm petting zoo with its native fauna, man in a Koala suit and a visit by Children’s TV favorite Josh Gad (voice actor Frozen). Mini Golf is promised. The zoo has of course been built next to a US Army experimental weapons facility. In the tunnels underneath they are breeding weaponised undead.
The predictable developments are realised with some vigor. I particularly like the zombie who has eaten a porcupine and goes through the film with quills sticking out of his face or the drone shot of the tractor just outpacing the monsters. It’s Darth Vader’s most winning gig since Alex de la Iglesia’s Comunidad.
We get gross out jokes, a swearing song, suspenseful dashes and cultural references (Neil Diamond has a good innings) as the leads and their little charges in school uniform shelter in the concession round house and Oz General Marshall Napier calls in air support but baulks at the prospect of killing kids - again.
Australian Abe Forsythe (Down Under) is also up for director for the new RoboCop movie and the handling is often assured - novel Australian setting, OK scary make up and excellent playing by the kids who must have been a challenge to recruit and deploy. It all has its moments.
However, the appealing Nyong'o’s performance outclasses everything else. There are structural flaws, like an over extended night where nothing much happens killing the pace, and some superfluous musical numbers which should have gone before this one hit the screen. However, not the one by Miss Nyong'o or the one the zombies join in. Those are welcome.
Revealing Gad as a Sanford Meisner graduate who lost his way and has to be motivated (“Do it for Pacino”), works up sympathy for the obnoxious, shampoo guzzling TV star and it’s unsatisfying to take that away. And what happens to the Asian mum or that winning lamb that La Torraca saves?
How this one will do in a market where Ant Timson’s Come to Daddy and Jenifer Reeder’s Knives and Skin are already available is speculative.
Editor’s Note: Little Monsters has recently had a theatrical release and is now available for rent on Foxtel.
*Barrie Pattison’s long career as a critic, editor, actor and film-maker included writing and co-directing ZOMBIE BRIGADE in 1988.