It seems like only last week we were reviewing a zombie comedy, and in fact it was. Apparently, you can’t keep a good subgenre down, and this week we’ve got the Aussie take, Little Monsters by criminally underrated director Abe Forsythe (Down Under).
Little Monsters, at its core, is about what might happen if a zombie outbreak occurred during a kindergarten excursion to a tourist farm, Pleasant Valley in this case. Miss Audrey Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) must keep her charges safe and distracted as all around people lose their minds and limbs. Unfortunately, for her (and the audience, to a degree), Miss Caroline isn’t the main character of the movie, that honour goes to Dave (Alexander England), who is an absolute deadshit, frankly. Dave is selfish, stupid, manipulative and only very sporadically funny, which makes him a curious choice for the romantic lead, particularly opposite Lupita who is absolutely radiant. And while Dave’s story is ostensibly a redemption arc, there are quite a few moments where you’ll be rooting for the zombies to gnaw his face off.
Happily, Lupita Nyong’o absolutely shines as Miss Caroline, imbuing the potentially shallow role with depth and pathos, making her journey an absolutely thrilling one. More surprising, the kids are actually pretty good too, with Felix (Diesel La Torraca) offering a star turn as Dave’s allergic-to-everything nephew. The story finds momentum along the way as well, with the third act surprisingly affecting after a somewhat listless middle section.
Little Monsters is a great premise bolstered by a wonderful performance from Lupita Nyong’o, somewhat stymied by a singularly unpleasant lead character, but loaded up with charm, humour and tolerable children.
Marrying into a rich and powerful family must be a bizarre experience. You’d have to jump through so many hoops just to prove you weren’t cementing the union for financial reasons, and entering the world of a modern dynasty would likely cause severe culture shock. Ready or Not, from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, takes that premise a few steps further, asking, what if the wealthy clan’s eccentricity stretched to murder?
Grace (Samara Weaving) is marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien) and joining the filthy rich Le Domas family, who made their fortune flogging board games. The family ranges from acerbic and drunk with Daniel (Adam Brody), to superficially pleasant with Alex’s mum, Becky (Andie MacDowell) to downright terrifying, with hatchet-faced aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni). However, things don’t become truly dark until midnight after the wedding when tradition dictates the family plays a game. Grace has to pick a card and play whatever it says. If it says chess, they play chess. If it says checkers, they play checkers. And if it says Hide and Seek? Well, Grace will be the sacrifice in a deadly game that must see her dead before dawn.
Ready or Not‘s best qualities can be summarised in two words: Samara Weaving. Her take on Grace is at turns spunky, funny, likeable and vulnerable, with a wry knowing quality that continues her ascendance to Scream Queen status. Combined with a brisk, if occasionally unambitious, script, the action plays out as a black comedy for most of the runtime, although it gets darker and weirder for the better in the back end. Adam Brody and Andie MacDowell both offer wonderful support roles, and the rest of the cast are solid too, and while it falls short of brilliance, the story engages throughout the duration.
There’s a subtext of the rich using the poor that underpins Ready or Not, and although it’s not explored as much as one might hope, it’s great to see mainstream horror embracing allegory over jumpscares. While echoing certain beats of 2011’s You’re Next, Ready or Not is fresh enough to offer a pacey, black horror comedy with a thing or two on its mind and a spectacular lead actress. While falling short of being an unmissable classic, it’s absolutely a game worth playing.
The revered filmmaker doesn't like zombie movies and has never watched The Walking Dead, but that didn't stop him from taking up Tilda Swinton's challenge, gathering his ensemble of collaborators and making The Dead Don't Die, a comedy with something to say about the world that we live in.
With how high Point Grey Pictures’ star has risen over the 2010s – from the Bad Neighbours series to The Disaster Artist to Long Shot from earlier this year – them backing a film like this almost feels like a step backward. A story about three school kids who get into wacky and blue misadventures while trying to get to a party for the ‘cool kids’? Are they running back to Superbad already? While this definitely shares elements with that previous feature, it also has more than enough of its own merit to stand on its own.
Writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (Year One, Bad Teacher) basically put enfant terrible on blast for the whole just-under-90-minute running time, getting a lot of mileage out of crass humour involving kids that kids themselves aren’t even allowed to see, a point brought home by the film’s Seth Rogen-featured marketing.
Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon do remarkably well with the dialogue, rattling off one-liners about sex, drugs and even a bit of rock’n’roll to make for a very high hit-to-miss ratio, one of the highest for a comedy to make it into cinemas in 2019.
There’s also plenty of Point Grey’s signature to be found within, as Rogen and Evan Goldberg productions tend to contain a lot of licensed music picks that border on the ingenious. Whether it’s ‘Walking On Sunshine’ used for hilariously tragic irony, Pusha T’s vocals on Yellow Claw’s ‘Nightmare’ providing great chase scene ambience, or Run The Jewels backing a version of ‘Frogger’ for the truly reckless, their pedigree for musical comedy remains healthily intact.
Not that this is just crassness and a good soundtrack just for their own sakes. Hell, it might not even be that similar to Superbad when all is said and done. If anything, it has more in common with Eighth Grade in how it uses a form of self-aware pretentiousness to highlight children who try (and mostly fail) to act and speak like adults because they’re at that point in life where that’s what they want to be: mature and grown-up. But as we see more of the kids around them, the high schoolers and even the adults, they themselves start to question what exactly ‘growing up’ and ‘being mature’ actually means.
In-between the frat house brawling, the ball-gag gags and what Tom Cruise in Rock Of Agesshould have looked like, the insights made about pre-puberty and the forced environment for socialising that is public schooling are what leave the lingering effect. It provides a good head rush from all the giggling, but also surprising moments of poignancy that shows genuine heart underneath the profanity. There’s definitely a lot of crassness here, and those with a disdain for wall-to-wall vulgarity need not apply, but those with the taste for it, Good Boys makes for a pretty damn good showing.