As someone unfamiliar with the world of Japanese film but well familiar with Japanese pop culture, Makoto Nagahisa’s We Are Little Zombies is the exact type of energetic, kawaii foray into a child-like dream that I expected to see onscreen. The film operates visually like a sort of surrealist painting while navigating themes of loss and grief through the eyes of a child. None of it makes any sense, but it’s impossible to look away from for about 90 of the 120 minute duration.
About The Film
We Are Little Zombies follows the lives of four children who meet at a crematorium after each of their parents dies unexpectedly in freak accidents. The four of them lean against the side of the building as their parents’ bodies burn inside the walls. A puff of smoke comes out of the chimney and one of the children asks a nearby janitor if it could be her parents coming through. It may seem like a morbid image, but Nagahisa manages to turn it into a comical scene with animated expression and imagery.
The four of them bond over their mutual inability to feel any sort of grief over their losses. After describing to one another how each of their parents died, the four of them wonder what’s next for their lives. The children then bring each other to each of their former homes, recounting their old lives along the way. The four of them bring the audience on a visual journey of absurdism through the eyes of a child.
Eventually, with nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, the children decide to form a band. Their music acts as a way to cope with their inability to properly grieve over the loss of their parents. When someone from a record company notices them practicing their music one night in an abandoned building and records it, the music becomes an instant hit. Suddenly the kids have a purpose, and use their music as a way to begin their lives without their parents.
Individually, no one scene makes any sense until it’s all put together. In a similar fashion to other Sundance alumni such as Sorry To Bother You, the film takes some weird turns toward the end. It seems as if Nagahisa wants the film to end on a wildly absurd note. Just when you think it’s over, it isn’t. The film comes to an unexpected close that still seems oddly satisfying in the grand scheme of things.
We Are Little Zombies has major cult film potential in worldwide art scenes. It’s heavy influence of Japanese pop culture plays into its overall campy tone and lightheartedness. As surreal and strange as it seems, it’s a fun movie that provides a breath of fresh air. The film seems to still be up for purchase as no distribution news has been announced.
Julia Sachs is a staff writer at Grit Daily. She covers tech, entrepreneurship and entertainment news and is based in Park City, Utah.