We Are Little Zombies follows four recently orphaned children - Hikari, Ishi, Ikuko and Takemura - with negative world views due to poor treatment from their parents and peers, who start a band together. While the children are initially viewed as emotionless husks by everyone — including themselves — as the film progresses, their worldview doesn’t necessarily change but the metamorphosis they inadvertently undertake during their time together makes for a compelling watch.
We Are Little Zombies has a stark contrast between the grim personalities of basically everyone in the cast and a seizure-inducing, massively flashy colorful aesthetic that dominates almost the entire 120-minute runtime. The combination may seem jarring based on that description but it’s funny in a morbid sense, — with the world seeming so beautiful and exciting to the audience — but the use of lighting, CGI and videogames for the characters in the film is so artificial that it’s easy to feel sad for these characters while also being ensnared by their two worlds — the grim, bleak realm versus the neon artificial reality. Despite the contrast of tone and theme being so prevalent in the story — which mainly follows Hikari’s psyche as he passively glosses over the fact that he feels like his parents never loved him due to the fact that he’s never known things like the warmth of their hands or the smell of their hair, alongside the bullying he’s faced at school - it’s surprisingly difficult to get lost in one aspect over the other.
There are times where the cinematography of We Are Little Zombies matches its tone. A few of the scenes are in black and white but feature some tripped out visuals that practically scream to be seen in color. It’s fitting that those scenes aren’t though because We Are Little Zombies is its own film that follows its own rules. Also, maybe if those scenes were in color they would lose the air of mystery and fascination that it works so hard to get right. There are also some incredible shots in We Are Little Zombies that can leave a viewer feeling giddy or wanting to yell out “oh dang!” The first music video the band makes is a prime example, with excellent tracking shots and a nice use of atmosphere and the cast.
The soundtrack (which is on Spotify, you’re welcome. But it fits much better in the film) is probably better than the visuals it compliments so well. The music can change quickly from a punk song to a sweet, quirky choral theme to an upbeat retro video game track. It is worth noting that the video game tracks are at the head of the table here. The beats are used in the title track that the band sings “We Are Little Zombies” and “Zombies But Alive,” both of which are true bops. A big part of what makes the previously mentioned songs work aside from the beats is the band itself. Piano, drums, and bass are the instruments the band uses in the film and the kids can sing very well. During We Are Little Zombies the band is constantly called emo by their manager and the label fits quite well — like if emo music was more...fun. While music is an integral part of any film, especially one about a band, it gives We Are Little Zombies the chef’s kiss for absolute perfection.
We Are LIttle Zombies is a film that deals with grief management and how hard it can be to sort through one’s emotions. It doesn’t matter if you’re 13-years-old, 35-years-old or 67-years-old, emotions are one of the toughest parts of living. These children have been through a lot and by the end of the film, their conclusions are extremely powerful and the conclusions the viewer may come to about their emotions and how to handle their lives may be equally powerful. It may be hard to cry when tragedy strikes or soon after. It may be hard to cry while times are hard. But We Are Little Zombies lets the audience know that everyone processes things at their own pace in their own ways. While it may seem tough, there will always be someone around to listen to you and help you through your trials, never forget that. You’re an absolute legend.