Writer-Director Abe Forsythe Serves Up Big Fun in 'Little Monsters'
October 11, 2019
Is it weird to say a zombie movie is cute? Well, Little Monsters is cute. And gory, funny, full of F-bombs and laced with a little romance—just about everything you want in a zom-com.
Written and Directed by Abe Forsythe, Little Monsters takes us on a field trip to a parent’s worst nightmare—a petting zoo next to a military base conducting human experiments. What could go wrong?
First off, there’s man-child Dave, played by Alexander England, and literally the last guy you’d want watching your kids. So, naturally he’s the one chaperoning his nephew’s kindergarten class on this field trip. This is a man who spends his days unsuccessfully busking his death metal tunes in the town square and his nights on the couch playing video games. I’ll be kind. Dave is not a self-starter. It’s only a chance meeting with his nephew’s teacher, the lovely Miss Caroline, played by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, that motivates Dave to step it up. He is smitten.
And who could blame him? Miss Caroline is literally a ray of sunshine in a beautiful yellow dress. She’s a smart and graceful woman who effortlessly teaches and maintains control over a pack of kindergarteners. And she sings! Miss Caroline is like a dream, strumming away on her ukulele belting out Taylor Swift songs. Basically, Little Monsters is the closest thing we have to the Sound of Music—with zombies—but Miss Caroline isn’t a sweet and delicate nun. She’s a dedicated caregiver for children. One minute, Miss Caroline is bashing zombie brains, and the next, she’s smiling and pretending it’s all a game in order to keep the children calm. While the zombies howl and the men around her crumble, Miss Caroline manages to shield the children from the horrors of the outside world; a recurrent theme at the heart of this film and one that resonated with Nyong’o.
“Lupita responded to the universal truth of how important kindergarten teachers are to our kids and to us. She was able to hit all of the notes from sunshine to tough, which was essential for this character to carry the film”, says Forsythe.
Some say we have reached the saturation point with zombie movies, a fact not lost on Forsythe, so he used the undead as a short hand way to get where he needed to go.
“I didn’t set out to make a zombie movie. The particular things that influence this story come from my life and having zombies was just the best way to keep things fun and amusing. For me, the movie is about my son and everything he has taught me about the world.”
But back to what could go wrong on this ill-fated field trip: we meet beloved child icon Teddy McGiggle, played by a surly Josh Gad. He’s the guy we need to love/hate. You’ll even root for his sock puppet snake sidekick to get bit. McGiggle smiles and his voice squeaks on high and the children eat it up, but McGiggle is not what he seems—McGiggle likes to McGetItOn with all the mothers. The kids are merely a means to an end—the exact opposite of everything Miss Caroline represents.
From the get-go, the dialogue in Little Monsters shoots at a humorous rat-a-tat-tat pace. It’s fast but lean, because Forsythe is not big on one-liners or improv for the sake of being funny.
“Everything that was on the page is in the movie. Dialogue is so important. The brilliant thing about someone like Josh, when he improvises, he does it in a way that gives the audience more insight into his character.”
And the insight we gain is that McGiggle is trash while Miss Caroline becomes the face of the incredible teachers we entrust to educate and take care of our children. The educators of this world who put up with so much and yet are so criminally underpaid. This is a message Forsythe feels very strongly about.
“I get approached pretty much at every screening by teachers who tell me how much this movie means to them. To see a movie that shows what they do, but in a way that’s fun. I knew how important teachers were, but I didn’t realize how important kindergarten teachers were until I watched what my son went through.”
Forsythe says he isn’t foolish enough to sit through the makeup process in order to make a cameo in the movie, but his dear old friend Damon Herriman was ready to go. He’s been in every Forsythe movie, TV show, and short. Herriman recently portrayed Charles Manson in both Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Mindhunter.
“Damon called me up and said, ‘I’ve got to be in your movie.’ So, he came to set, and I put him through three hours of really intense makeup and he’s literally in the background of one shot. Like the ultimate practical joke, to take who is in my mind one of the best actors in the world, and make him a background extra.”
This sense of humor translates on screen along with Forsythe’s hopeful view of humanity and the generations to come. I have to admit, I was a little surprised when I teared up at the end.
“That’s what I want to happen,” says Forsythe. “I want the people saying, ‘Oh fuck another zombie movie,’ to watch it and then go, ‘Oh shit, I didn’t realize I was going to feel this way.’”
Written by: Kat CorbettKat Corbett is a Los Angeles-based writer and radio personality who can be heard on-air at SiriusXM and KROQ. Raised in Boston, Kat somehow managed to lose her thick accent to become a successful voice-over artist working on such projects as the FIFA World Cup for the past four years. Most days she’s just hoping to score space on her couch between three sleeping dogs. Find her on Twitter @KatCorbett and Instagram @Kat_Corbett