Sundance Review: Little Monsters – Petting Zoo of the Dead

There have been many zombie comedies from Return of the Living Dead to Shaun of the Dead and Cooties. I get the appeal. You get to have fun with outrageous situations and lots of gore, and Little Monsters puts a fun twist on it.

David (Alexander England) is a stoner loser whose girlfriend (Nadia Townsend) dumps him so he moves in with his sister. He takes his nephew Felix (Diesel La Torraca) on inappropriate late night adventure but volunteers for a class field trip to impress his teacher Audrey (Lupita Nyong’o). When they get to the petting zoo, a zombie outbreak at the next door army base descends upon the zoo, so Audrey and David have to barricade the kids inside the gift shop, stuck with children’s show host Teddy McGiggles (Josh Gad).

The hook that most people are going to hang on is all the violence and swearing involving children. That’s kinda obvious and there is a lot more cleverness that pays off by the end.

Audrey has to use her kindergarten tricks to wrangle kids to safety without letting them see the gory danger. Nyong’o is incredible with the kids and later, when she leaves to bring back medical supplies, she becomes a magnificent badass fighting zombies. Her classroom songs have a really cool payoff with the zombies at the end.

In a crisis McGiggles shows his true colors and Gad relishes his inappropriateness. This too goes deeper as he proves to be not just a coward but a truly awful guy. David is pretty obnoxious at first but you know this is moving towards him stepping up and proving himself. Felix is cute saying childish things in the grownup situations David puts him in.

So “Petting Zoo of the Dead” is a new one for the genre and there are lots of clever gore gags too, no small feat when there are more added to the canon every week on The Walking Dead. Writer/director Abe Forsythe creates suspenseful zombie action while maintaining the absurdity of a kindergarten field trip.