Dave, a failed, down on his luck musician with a penchant for doing the wrong thing, volunteers to chaperone a kindergarten field trip to a popular outdoor petting zoo park attraction intent on gaining the affection of his 5-year-old nephew’s perky teacher, Miss Caroline. Also at the attraction is an American children’s’ television personality, Teddy McGiggle, travelling the world with his latest stop in Australia. All seems well and dandy until the U.S. stationed Army base adjacent to the petting zoo loses control of the highly aggressive rejuvenation test subjects and are overrun by the lemming of slow, flesh-eating zombies that stagger bit by bit toward the park’s touristy patrons. With every last living, breathing thing either turned undead or eaten to the spinal cord, Dave, Miss Caroline, and Teddy McGiggle must fight against the outbreak for not only their survival, but for the troop of young and impressionable kindergarteners thinking what’s happening is nothing more than a prolonged game of tag before the gung-ho U.S. military sanction of eradicating airstrike right on their location.
The lumbering zombie canon enjoys a delightfully endearing and rousingly tucked zom-rom comedy, “Little Monsters,” with children being the heartfelt conquerors to slay the funk the genre has been stagnantly lingering inside. Written and directed by up and coming filmmaker Abe Forsythe, the internationally collaborated production from the U.S., United Kingdom, and Australia delivers a brashly funny film under the guise of long-pigged zombie horror shot primarily in Sydney, Australia at Centennial Park. Not to be confused with the Fred Savage children’s film of the same title from 1989 that also starred funny man Howie Mandel, Forsythe’s “Little Monsters’” head lopping, guts coiling, and every four letter word in the profanity bible goes to infinity and beyond the parental guidance rating.
Perfect performances all around from a dynamically intercontinental collaborative cast starting off with Lupita Nyong’o. The “Us” actress, who should have won an Oscar for her performance in the Jordan Peele film, astounds again with a delicately frank and beautifully sage performance as the alluring kindergarten teacher Miss Caroline whose number one priority is to protect her class of 5-year-olds, physically and mentally, at all costs. Counter to Miss Caroline seemingly having her stuff together, the raucously detached Dave immediate sets his whirlwind claws right into Miss Caroline, attempting to attract her with disinformation about his stable state of mind and being; however, Dave to the core is a good guy harnessed by Australian actor Alexander England (“Alien: Covenant”) who adds the rough edges around Dave’s stagnant and serrated lifestyle. Though different on the surface level, Caroline and Dave do have rooted similarities that spark romance after some convincing through zombie tribulations and scenario finesse; Nyong’o and England singe around the edge of attraction that’s goes from a seething disaster to being playfully coy and tender that works confidently on screen. When you through Josh Gad into the mix, you never know what to expect in terms of a wild card character. The “Frozen” star pulls off Olaf on hard drugs as Teddy McGiggle as Gad’s voice is unmistakably the overly friendly snowman who likes warm hugs but with a lot more F bombs and a dee seeded disgust for kids show personality that results him bedding many of his toddler fans’ moms. I wasn’t sure how Gad was going to pull off a zombie epic, but his gas-riot performance is a spiked drink compared to other who dances around the children’s innocence and the fact Teddy McGiggle is a kids show personality elevates his crude conduct to that more pungent. “Little Monsters” round out with Kat Stewart, Marshall Napier (“The Beast”), Diesel La Torraca as Felix.
The word from my inner circle of moviegoers, those who have little interest in horror and more interests in fast cars and vast explosions, say something along the lines that “Little Monsters” was “okay,” “Didn’t really do it for them,” or “I didn’t watch the last 20 minutes.” Disclaimer: These people are really not close friends, but barely colleagues, and since “Little Monsters” is being cut down by popcornist naysayers, their opinions have itty-bitty merit awarded to their poor judgement in taste of good, funny, and superbly acted eye-candy horror cinema with pocket messages of insufferable loneliness, hidden internal commonality, and the caliber in what makes us human that piece together as collectively relatable. If these aspects do not register with you, then you’re not human, but rather a 7-headed martian with tentacles and a pea-size purple brain. “Little Monsters” has some good gritty zombies at work here that juxtapose against the tender nature of children and the only thing between these children being lunch are three damaged adults searching for something meaningful. The apocalypse becomes a fork in the road, an ultimatum, that tests their worth and Aby Forsythe bombards that fateful decision with little notes of comedy, witty banter, and a clear case carnage.
“Little Monsters” takes a field trip to Blu-ray DVD home video, and digital download February 10th from UK distributor, Altitude Film Entertainment. “Little Monsters” is a production of Made Up Stories, Protagonist Pictures (“31” and “Lords of Chaos“), and Snoot Entertainment (“Dude Bro Massacre III” and “You’re Next”). Unfortunately, a DVD-R was provided for review so no audio or video quality critiques will be touched up, but the upcoming region B Blu-ray is listed as a BD-50, 1080p Full HD, and presented in the original 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio with an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. There were no special features listed in the press release and there were none available on the DVD-R. Finding a way to harness everything sacred from the zombie genre and then creating something new, interesting, and captive from start to finish to blend is a victory melange of wall-to-wall wit and feral monsters leaves “Little Monsters” as the horror romantic comedy that has it all.
In the small rural community of Devil’s Gate, Oregon, a boy and his mother disappear without a trace. FBI Special Agent Daria Francis spearheads the investigating to atone for a regretful previous child disappearance case. She’s accompanied by a local deputy, Colt Salter, to assist her. During her brief investigation upon arriving at Devil’s Gate, Agent Francis comes to the determination that Jackson Pritchard, the father and husband of the missing boy and mother, is directly involved in their sudden disappearance. The investigation turns from a seemingly straight forward, open and shut case to a colossal mystery that’s beyond their comprehension when arriving at the religious dogmatist’s boarded up and disturbing cladded farm house where unearthly forces lay claim to the Pritchard family home for sinister reasons. With one of the beings caged in his basement, the desperate Pritchard seeks an exchange with the creatures he labels as the fallen angels in attempt to regain his wife and son, but as the night falls, trapping Agent Francis and Deputy Salter with Prichard inside the residence, they become surrounded by the fire in the sky creatures aimed to reap not only the world, but their souls.
Like an enigmatic report straight from the non-redacted portions of a nail-biting X-Files case, “Devil’s Gate” is a we are not alone sci-fi horror film from 2017 under the apocalyptic eye of director Clay Staub and co-written by video game plot scriber, Peter Aperlo. The considerably financed project is the first feature film for both filmmakers in their respective roles with Staub having served as an assistant director on other paranormal plotted projects like Zack Snyder’s heavily praised remake of George Romero’s flesh-eating zombie classic, “Dawn of the Dead,” and Matthijs van Heijningen’s underrated “The Thing,” a prequel to John Carpenter’s film of the same title. One quality that we can all can be pleased about is that Staub carries over from his previous experience as a genre filmmaker participate is the use of gore in the “Devil’s Gate” because, honestly just by looking at the cover and reading the plot, the bloodletting expectation was low on the totem pole. Staub doesn’t unload a gratuitous splatterfest of alien and human entrails, but subtly sanctions the right amount of extrasensory chest bursting and finger snapping goo that plays an ill-fated role of circular or motivational circumstances for the characters.
Putting the pieces of the Pritchard mystery together is Agent Francis who is a to the point and tough national law enforcement officer with a bleeding heart complex after her very first assigned case went tragically sour that looms an unexplainable root cause cloud over her straight blonde hair. Desperate to cure her past, Agent Francis rushes into Devil’s Gate, bypassing the notable chicken fried steak meal offered by Deputy Salter upon her tarmac arrival and defying the local Sheriff’s heed to not interview husband Jackson Pritchard, that sorely causes her to land in the virtually the same predicament of just trying to get the right thing done no matter the unclear ancillary evidence. “12 Monkey’s” television star Amanda Schull spearheads the character with the characteristics aforementioned with drab appeal, lacking the emotion and the intensity her character is supposed to be exhibit when trying to solve a case of personal redemption as well as the fear from an higher ominous power that can shoot lightning down from the sky and flash velociraptor toe-claw sized fangs. Colt Salter might be a small time, Podunk deputy, but the born and raised Devil’s Gate officer can match wit with his FBI counterpart. Salter strikes me as a character who doesn’t stray far from home, mentioning various times, in various ways, his parallel path to high school friend Jackson Pritchard. Shawn Ashmore, from Joe Lynch’s “Frozen,” opposites his costar Schull like Mulder and Scully type as well as an all-around good guy who happens to stray from his protocol path once Agent Francis puts her federal fingers into his already investigated investigation. Like his performance in “Frozen,” “X-Men” franchise, and even in FOX’s television thriller “The Following,” Ashmore is a pretty solid actor, showing a range of emotion that transcends him from easygoing deputy to mortality fearing when mankind’s on the verge of extinction comes into the equation. An equally solid performance by Milo Ventimiglia, who recently starred in “Creed II,” really sells the crazy portray by Jackson Pritchard, a God-fearing man with a long lineage of misunderstood family heritage that leads him to the uncanny bombshell that has been bestowed upon his family farm. Ventimiglia, in his roughest, toughest country twang, creates such an anxiety-riddled and frantic character that unravelling his fate is not too clear which is refreshing to be able to retain mystery to a role as we can kind of figure out how Agent Francis and Deputy Salter when fair in the end game. Rounding out the cast is Bridget Regan (“John Wick”), Javier Botet (“Slender Man”), and “Star Trek: The Next Genergation’s” Jonathan Frakes, still sporting that iconic beard even if it has grayed, as the town Sheriff.
In spite of some really cool visuals, especially of the man underneath the mask, Javier Botet, inside a ghoulishly white extraterrestrial suit that only his elongated and thin body (and perhaps also Doug Jones’) could snuggly fit into, “Devil’s Gate” tells a narrative that hails from a lot of re-spun material. Whether intentional or not, viewers more than likely won’t be able to help themselves as they’ll eagerly point to the television screen and say, ““Independence Day” did that first,” or exclaim, “didn’t Donald Sutherland star in the same kind of thing???” I know I did. However, Staub and Aperlo don’t completely ape the concepts that surely haven’t inspiring them, making the effort more endearing, and visually crafted a well-blended plot into an enjoyable and captivating story; a story that has been mostly devoid of underlining messages and symbolism other than the themes of religious zealots are extremely bad for the world and living with past regrets can be hazardous for your health if not properly accessed. “Devil’s Gate” focuses more directly on just entertaining another version of visitors from another world and how those no-so-little-green-men play an assimilating role into humanity.
Umbrella Entertainment releases “Devil’s Gate” onto a region 4 DVD presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The vast Midwestern landscape with the foreboding rolling clouds stretches from top to bottom with an exact sharpness and crisp from the digital picture. The textures in the broad, yet barren-esque fields look especially detailed, more so with the wind and brownish-yellow color. Speaking of color, the hue is a filter of shadowed purple and on a sepia side that works the dread atmosphere. The English 5.1 Dolby audio track has ample range and depth. Lightning strikes boom equally from the five channels, alien shrieks trembles through, and the dialogue is not obstructed. Surprisingly, there are no bonus features with this release as the Stateside counterpart even has a trailer in the extras. There isn’t a static menu either as the film goes right into play feature mode. c
Fox usually has some pretty entertaining shows. I was a religions Hugh Laurie House M.D. follower and Tim Roth’s Lie To Me really had me going until the show was canceled for some, most likely, idiotic reason. After that those two shows were no longer running new episodes, I occasionally watched Family Guy, The Simpsons and Football whenever the Detroit Lions were playing. This new crime/horror thriller show called The Following had aired January 21st and I can’t say I was eager to turn away from Monday night’s The Biggest Loser that airs at the same time that The Following airs. I’m not ashamed to say that my wife and I caught The Following on On Demand and I’m impressed. What a great first episode to set up all the characters and their stories and now I am eager enough to start being a religious follower; however, I will not turn away from watching obese people sweat to death and curse at their trainers for a killer’s killer cult. Something about big people struggling to lose weight has more of an appeal, but thank you On Demand for being so convenient in helping me catching up on my shows (Dexter, American Horror Story: Asylum)!
The Following is about a charismatic and powerfully persuasive English professor Joe Carroll who is also a murderer of young college women to capture the essence of Edgar Alan Poe’s literary work. FBI agent Ryan Hardy tracks down Carroll and single handedly arrests him despite being stabbed in the heart. Years later, Carroll escapes just a week before his execution and now the ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy has to once again track him down. Before Hardy is able to apprehend once again, Carroll sets forth a plan that involves his loyal followers doing his murderous bidding for him which will tie up loose ends and most certainly involved the wash up agent Hardy.
Kevin Bacon in the first episode had a good first impression, but I didn’t empathize with him. This is not to say that his character will develop more into something more in depth and I can’t wait. My third eye tells me that there will be more to his character and his story. Bacon isn’t a stranger to horror (Tremors, Stir of Echos, Flatliners, Friday the 13th) and his performances usually stands out. I believe in the Bacon. Plus, with being the brain child of Scream series screenwriter Kevin Williamson, I have no doubt that we’ll get some great thrills. Episode one delivered some fantastic and dark scenes, especially with Joe Carroll’s potential serial killer prodigy and his dog experiments. The cast is well rounded out with Shawn Ashmore (Lord of the Rings, Frozen), James Purefoy (Resident Evil) and Natalie Zea.
What I seriously hope to be a brutal series, I kind of have my doubts that this will be anything like American Horror Story. Unlike it’s more edgier little brother F/X, FOX seems to be a tamer, more conservative counterpart and FOX, much like ABC and NBC, have had too many shows that are a hit and a miss and are canceled before you can say seven degrees of Kevin Bacon. I see The Following lasting beyond the first season and I see my ass in bed turning in a couple of days after the airing to catch up! Keep your eye on this one from FOX.