We Are Little Zombies tells the story of four newly orphaned Japanese kids from different families who meet at a crematorium, decide to start a band, rise to the pinnacle of pop stardom with the speed of a tweet and then decide to toss it all away. Imagine Danny Boyle directing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World if it were more about Scott’s band Sex Bob-omb and less about battling his crush’s evil exes — though that’s not to say the characters here don’t have demons from their pasts.
The four youths decide to name their newly formed group the Little Zombies because of the lack of emotion they collectively feel at the loss of their parents, none of whom cared very much for their children or vice versa. The film has a strong anti-sentimental viewpoint typical of certain youth, but it still managed to charm me with each new chapter, introduced in the style of ascending levels of 8-bit video game “start” screens.
Writer/director/composer Makoto Nagahisa and his camera are always moving, always trying something new, incorporating more styles and genre-borrowing than anyone except Quentin Tarantino — at least here in Hollywood. You can tell that Nagahisa is a new filmmaker, trying to prove something — and film festival juries from Berlin to Sundance have recognized his efforts with awards.
And, yes, this movie may out-video-game Scott Pilgrim with its frenetic, ADHD style, which at times can be overwhelming. But whenever I found myself tempted to turn my brain off and succumb to the barrage of overstimulating visuals, I was wooed back by the film’s surprisingly rich storytelling.
Nagahisa deftly moves between scenes of loss and how we cope, to moments of razor-sharp satire on the entertainment industry — this picture gets a gold star for mentioning The Shaggs and having a cameo from Japanese art-rock band Chai — before returning to scenes with all the feels of real-life tween-age crushes.
If you’re a member of the human set, the Little Zombies are here to the rescue.
Available to rent starting July 10 via grailmoviehouse.com