We Are Little Zombies
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Review by Craig Draheim
Director: Makoto Nagahisa
Writer: Makoto Nagahisa
Starring: Keita Ninomiya (Hikari), Mondo Okumura (Yuki- troubled), Satoshi Mizuno (Ishi- chunky), Sena Nakajima (Ikuko-girl)
Take a Wes Anderson’ film, add a dash of 8-bit video game influence, then strain it through a surrealistic Japanese filter, and you’ll get We are Little Zombies… And it was miraculous! Before we go any further, I will say apart from the title and each of the four kids’ parents dying, there is nothing horror-related about this movie. It doesn’t bother me at all, because it was actually a much-needed break from the horrors of reality. But being that this is Ginger Nuts of Horror it should be noted.
The story follows four children (average age of 13) who happen to meet while attending each of the parents’ funerals. Though they have little in common (besides losing their parents) they find a common ground as each feels they are unable to show emotion. As they are running around town in attempts to avoid returning to normal life, they eventually form a band and become a nationwide sensation. In short, this is the plot, however, in surrealistic and Japanese fashion a lot of other things happen. There’s an hour of build before we eventually get into what is considered the main “plot,” which then only lasts a short while until the story moves elsewhere. I will say by ignoring IMDB’s (or another site’s) synopsis you’ll be treated to a coming-of-age tale where kids navigate through their emotions while dealing with their losses, instead of waiting for their music careers to start.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It’s quirky and experimental, but not enough to exclude certain audiences that may not be into that genre. More than anything is the film’s authenticity to explore the anxieties and connections kids have in the modern world with a ton of heart. Yes, it won’t be for everybody, and based on my opening “buzzwords” you’ll know what camp you fall into. That is not a criticism in the slightest, but a matter of personal taste for the individual.
I thought all four of the children were compelling, despite their characters falling into your stereotypical kid-group tropes (the smart one, the troubled one, the overweight one, and the leader). Hikari (Keita Ninomiya) is what would be considered the central protagonist in the same way Gene Hackman is to The Royal Tenenbaums. I mention this because the group members take turn narrating, with their manager even taking the story’s focus for a small stint. Some people may find this “lack of focus” to be problematic, as I mentioned above, it is something I would chalk up to what you enjoy.
We Are Little Zombies provides an interesting dilemma for me. It’s something I want to discuss more with others that have seen it because I feel it’s such pleasant piece even though it deals with death and is in deadpan. However, on the other hand, I find myself unable to say much after only one viewing that provides justice to the film. I can really only say as the credits rolled, I scrambled to find my wife and tell her about “This movie you need to see when it’s officially released,” and anymore that’s the highest compliment I can give.
4 ½ out of 5