Highly stylized and based squarely in satire, We Are Little Zombies somehow manages to be a heartfelt look at what makes a family and what it means to grieve.
Don’t let that description lead you to think this is a mournful, or somber film. In fact, it is a neon-drenched, 8-bit music video that lulls you into looking at death through the eyes of four emotionally detached children.
The film begins when four children meet at their parents’ funerals. As is tradition, the services are swift and stacked in the schedule, before the bodies are all cremated and the joint asked divvied up amongst the surviving kin. This coldness of this mechanical description reflects just a touch of the distance these children feel to the loss of their parents. They have just met, but are bonded instantly as unaffected orphans, and dub themselves “zombies” for their lack of crying and mourning.
The first half of the two-hour film is mostly filled with the stories of death from each set of parents, told through each child’s visual aesthetic and voice over. There is a road accident, a fire, two suicides, and murders to round out the detached tales of loss. When they have gone through their tales, and each show that they have no desire to return to their lives, they start a band. In the abandoned space where they have been squatting the group of homeless people there are loud and musical, and these four kids decide to take up piles of garbage and fashion them into costumes and instruments. With one quick YouTube video, these kids are now the next hot thing in music. Their band shares its name with the title of the film, and We Are Little Zombies are a hit.
The typical ebb and flow of fame and contentment are there, along with being exploited by the greedy people in the music industry. What is interesting to watch in We Are Little Zombies is the amount of autonomy these particular kids possess. Though they are being taken advantage of, their complete lack of interest in fame or money save this from being just another story of the perils of success. These kids are still just kids who are trying not to deal with the death of their parents. But through their lyrics and even elements of their stage costumes, it is evident that their emotions are not as distant as they think.
The visuals of the film are cartoonish and reminiscent of the nostalgia for early video games and the raver culture from the early 1990s, but the music which also embraces these presentation modes is really damn catchy too. The computer generated beats and funky hooks perfectly reflects their escapism and intention to always keep it light and to always have fun.
We Are Little Zombies is disarmingly honest when it finally reaches the emotional climax. For a film which has turned multiple deaths into a footnote and homelessness into a child’s game, it manages to break through to its heart without sacrificing the integrity of the kids. There is no betrayal or swift pivot, but there is a moment of growth and realization.
Snappy music and a dark core make We Are Little Zombies such a delight to take in. The self-aware contrast between color and darkness, death and life, and detachment and hope are always there as wonders to behold and not problems to solve. It is as much fun as you can have watching a film about death, because it is ultimately about living life.