First off, that is not a “zombie movie” per se. Just had to be said. Horror movie fans should check this out – everyone should – but don’t expect any gut-munching.
Rather, We Are Little Zombies is about a metaphorical deadening of the soul, focusing on four pre-teens on the cusp of maturity who meet after losing their parents – to suicide, to murder, to misadventure – and find themselves isolated and unable to express their emotions in any “normal” way.
That may make the movie sound treacly or unappealing but We Are Little Zombies feels more like Nobody Knows as directed with the video game aesthetic and pop visuals of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim and the savage angst of Shunji Iwai. Director Makoto Nagahisa comes from the world of music videos and it shows in this, his first full length feature. Hell, Zombies is constantly threatening to become a full blown musical, much to its benefit. The kids form a band and even pay tribute to what may be the greatest walking dead act of all, The Zombies (Hell, this sent me back to Odessey & Oracle for the first time in months).
The film isn’t flawless, some of the kids are a bit stereotypical – bullied kid, fat kid, punk, ice princess – and not all get their due (the chubby boy in particular gets shortchanged). Not to mention that at two hours, the stylistic aggression can get a bit enervating.
And while I wouldn’t call this a flaw, Zombies can get extremely dark, not every filmmaker would have the chutzpah to present a father beating his son as a digital boss fight.
But it’s engaging, emotional stuff and I look forward to seeing more from Nagahisa (and to checking out his earlier short).
We Are Little Zombies comes out on in US theatres and digital platforms July 10 from Oscilloscope.