Not to be confused with the 1989 film which starred a young Fred Savage (The Wonder Years), Little Monsters explores what it would be like to traverse the perils of a zombie apocalypse with children in tow. The independent co-venture from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which was written and directed by Abe Forsythe stars Lupita Nyong'o (Us), Alexander England, and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast).
This film could have easily been overshadowed by competitors in its relatively limited sub-genre. However, with its smart blend of adult and children's humor, stellar acting from the relatively small cast, charming child actors, and enough zombie violence to keep the pacing fresh, it stands proudly self-aware of exactly what kind of movie it is and takes the strengths of its predecessors to launch it firmly into the second place category, barely surpassed by the film that created the sub-genre, Shaun of the Dead.
Little Monsters vs. Zombieland
Zombieland took the more ridiculous aspects of a zombie apocalypse and made it funny. Granted, the horror aspects of zombies overrunning the earth will always be present, but given that zombies are, in essence, walking pillars of decaying human flesh, they're relatively easy to defeat. At least, depending on what iteration of zombies you employ for the sake of the film. Some horror movies like World War Z have made faster, smarter zombies and different lore, such as in 28 Days Later, conceptually explores zombies as a viral infestation instead. Both of these sub-types make a different sort of nemesis for apocalypse survivors.
The zombies in most horror-comedies, however, are of the slow-walking, growling, relatively stupid variety. This, in essence, provides a safer-than-usual environment for the characters of the film. In Zombieland, the rag-tag group of survivors led by Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, are armed to the teeth and more than capable of handling themselves against the zombie hoarde. In Little Monsters, a group of children are entirely under the supervision and care of Dave (England), Miss Caroline (Nyong'o), and eventually Teddy McGiggle (Gad).
The concept alone raises the stakes because, for many horror movies, murdering children is taboo. Little Monsters could have gone dark, but it didn't. Instead, it chose to err on the side of foul-mouthed humor and comedic violence. Shaun of the Dead utilized light-hearted tactics as well, particularly in one iconic scene where the lead characters try to kill a zombie by throwing old records at it.
Another comparison is the romantic element, which both movies explore to some degree. In Zombieland, the love connection between Columbus (Eisenberg) and Wichita (Emma Stone) blossoms from two lonely people who lean on each other to spark hope in a less than ideal scenario. In Little Monsters, Dave develops a crush on Miss Caroline after his long-term relationship abruptly implodes and the two realize, as they work as a team to save the children, that they might be each others' ideal match. It's a more heartwarming take, one that deals with exploring love that happens under very unexpected circumstances.
Bloody Fun For (Most Of) The Family
One more feather in the cap that gives Little Monsters the edge over its direct competition is its accessibility. Many horror fans search for gateway films for kids so all family members can be included. While this movie isn't appropriate for really young kids, particularly because of language and content issues, horror fans who are a little more mature will likely have a blast. For adults, however, the foul-mouthed Teddy McGiggle (the kid's show host who hates kids) will likely be one of the biggest highlights.
It's not particularly scary or excessively bloody, so more fans of the genre who don't enjoy a bloodbath will find many things to love about Little Monsters. If this is the benchmark for Hulu's original content, they have a bright future ahead.