May 30, 2013

REVIEW: LITTLE MONSTERS


"It's like he was a toy doll that those boys stole and didn't know what to do with, so they murdered my little baby. It's not right to let them go...just because they turned eighteen. 'Happy birthday, you're free to go.' Free to kill again, if you ask me."
From its very dark opening to its equally powerful closing, the newest film from David Schmoeller represents a drastic new side to the filmmaker for those only previously aware of his minor classics Puppet Master and Tourist Trap. Little Monsters, his first feature in thirteen years and based on a true story, is the sobering story of two murderers named James Landers and Carl Withers, charged with murdering a three-year-old boy named David McClendon. The awfulness of this act is then exacerbated by the notion that James Landers and Carl Withers are themselves only children - ten years old, to be specific. The boys are caught, charged, and sent to a juvenile detention center for eight years. Upon their eighteenth birthdays, they are released into a sort of witness protection program, with new identities in tow. One is released into the care of a parole officer and set up with a job at the law firm Slausen et al. (a nice nod to Tourist Trap), and the other is placed into foster care. Forbidden from contacting their family, friends, each other, or anyone from their past life, the two now-teenagers must find a way to continue some attempt at an existence while living with the fact that they, in a moment of foolishness, took the life of a child.

Earlier I said that Little Monsters represented a new side to writer/director David Schmoeller. And that's because there is nothing quirky or cartoonish about his newest film. (If you were previously familiar with Schmoeller's filmography, then you know not to take offense.) There are no killer puppets or screaming mannequins here. There are no popcorn scares and set-pieces to make audience jumps and then smile in relief. And there is no Charles Band in sight. Instead, Little Monsters is about real-life horror. It is about tragedy, human relationships and behavior, and exploitation. It's about knowing how to recognize evil when it's staring you in the face, but then realizing to even try is futile.


During the boys' reentry into society, the film offers society's reaction their release - from parents of the victim, to parents of the murderers, to a conservative talk-show host and pair of slimy tabloid reporters. One murderer's mother yearns to hear from her son; the other tells her son she used to pray he would die in prison. Some members of society with no direct connection to the case want to see the boys punished, while others wish people would just let it lie. Smartly comprised of traditional narrative mixed with sit-down interviews featuring family members, law enforcement, and political officials, Little Monsters is presented as a docu-drama. And why shouldn't it be? The case on which the film is based is real. The kind of violence and psychosis the film depicts is real. The polarizing reactions society has about the death of one is real. We need look no further than the recent tragedy in Newtown to see that we, as people, will never be united behind any one cause, no matter how obvious it may look. Little Monsters is dark and bleak and fucking angry...but so is life.

Ryan Leboeuf as James and Charles Cantrell as Carl are tremendous in their entirely opposite roles. James (now Bob Fisher) is quiet, reserved, and struggling with the next phase of his life. He sneaks away to reference the notebooks that contain crib sheets on his new identity and shies away from the girl next door who shows him attention. Carl (now Joey Romer), however, makes it abundantly clear he is not ready to re-enter society. He is angry, but smiles his way through it, not caring if he's fooling those around him. And both young actors completely outshine their adult counterparts in every way. 


The script for Little Monsters is very smartly constructed, using the aforementioned narrative- vs. sit-down-interview juxtaposition to convey insights into our characters as well as subjective points of view from those removed from the case; you're essentially getting three stories in one: those who support the boys, those who want to see them punished...and the truth. Everybody is right and everybody is wrong all at once. Minor harm is done to the pacing of the film due to the various characters representing the media, but it isn't detrimental. Schmoeller could have easily "cheated" and kept his sit-down interviews in place without relying on talk-show hosts and tabloid reporters asking questions on the other side of the camera to justify this kind of exposition and insight (Linklater and Clooney do it), but their characters aren't entirely superfluous, either. They serve a purpose and represent different facets - a maddeningly realistic take on how the media responds in time of tragedy - but they could have been easily edited out and affected little.


A limited budget has resulted in limited flair, but the film is not without style. Schmoeller instead relies on tone, and in getting dangerously intimate with our two polar opposite characters. You become witness to their madness as well as their regret; you are forced to experience their crimes as well as their struggle to transcend their status as cold-blooded murderers and prove there's more to them than a wrong decision made by a ten-year-old's mind. But you're also forced to recognize that not everything is as it seems - that evil comes in many forms, and not all of them are obvious.

Little Monsters is currently doing the film festival thing and getting good marks wherever it travels. It is without distribution, but here's hoping that changes soon. It is a film that will challenge your idea of perception and force you to confront the power of denial.

More information can be found on David Schmoeller's website and Facebook.


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21 comments:

  1. has this been released in the uk yet?

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  2. LITTLE MONSTERS will be released by VCI Entertainment on 4-1-2014 nationally in the US. Hopefully it will then travel to foreign territories.

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    1. hopefully it bloody well won't.The very thought of watching it is sickening and the film's cover picture is blatantly uncaring.Please do not release this in the UK. If this is how low you have stooped to make money then I pity you.

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  3. Whoever wrote or made this film is sick.

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  4. Personally i hope this gets boycotted in the UK, based off a true story, that happened in my home city and i know the real victims family, way to go making a living off a childs anguish and pain, hope you fucking rot!

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  5. The Director was either seriously mis-guided or down right vicous in his having one of the murderers called james..the film is based on the murder of James Patrick Bulger.. to name one of the killers james is disgusting

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  6. So many people will be offended by this film, I cannot believe it has actually been made. any decent person will boycott it

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  7. You all forgetting that this is film...A medium for story-telling. Get over yourselves and your "I'm so offended" mindsets and realize that this is telling a story. Of course its a sad and tragic story but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be told. There are plenty of murder movies based on real events. Should we discontinue any movies about the Holocaust because it may offend some Jewish people?

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  8. I cannot believe this tragedy has been made into a movie. People in the UK will be sickened by this, James Bulger a trusting toddler went with these evil sick boys who took him and slowly killed him, while they were stoning him he was apparently screaming for his mummy. I just pray his family NEVER see this. Clearly someone in America decided it would be a good idea to make this movie and profit from the torture and death of a small innocent boy. The movie should be banned. David Schmoeller should be ashamed of himself, perhaps he needs to seek guidance from god and pray for forgiveness. I truly hope this movie is one of the biggest flops of all time and hope that nobody is sick enough to want to see it. Those who do decide they want to see it better take a lot of tissue because the story of what happened to this wee boy will rip your heart out. As for the "get over yourselves" comment, well you can just FUCK RIGHT OFF!!!!!!!! Oh and here is a wee update, one of the boys ended up back in jail shortly after his release for molesting a child. The UK is a lot smaller than the US and so perhaps we care about each other a bit more and we are more easily offended when it comes to profiting from the torture and death of a toddler, maybe we just care more!!!!

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    1. No you dont care more. Youre not any better.

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  9. It is a very disturbing thought when innocent children cannot be treated innocently. Although it may seem heartless to make a movie about such a devastating act, knowledge is power. Maybe an awareness of youth violence can come from it. It states it was a low budget film so not much profit could have been made. Sometimes the story just has to be told. One thing for sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

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    1. U know i do my best to keep my children safe by gathering tips from real crime shows but over the years i have realized and this upcoming film confirms that your children will never ever be safe not from family, strangers, the people next door, and not even the other children they may or may not know. And that is very disturbing to me as a parent but i strongly believe no matter the age of a killer if without dought they did the killing they should also be killed and for those of u who have never had a child murdered in such a way that a horror movie could not even come up with then u are very lucky to not kniw what that is like. Just think long and hard if your 3 year old was lured away from u by two 10 year olds and beat to death and left to rot like road kill, children or not they should not be here today. I am so very sorry for this 3 year olds family, having to relive this again but i as a mother would never be able to let it go until the little devils that did this to my baby was dead themselves that way nobody would ever be hurt by them again. The small country town i was raised in everyone believed an eye for an eye, those two boys would not have been safe from the family of the victim and that is a fact. As far as the guy who make this film yes the cover is sick they should not be shown standing over him because that shows they won,and that they had and still have all the power. This is my opinion on this matter only and i hope i did bot offend anyone except the sick fuckers that we have to share this world with.

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  10. I just finished watching this movie and yes it is quite disturbing. However I am a bit confused as to the ending of the movie. Who is the man in the whit truck? Is that supposed to be James ? In the beginning I thought it was a bounty hunter but his evil smile at the end has me quite confused. Can someone please give me there insight, I kept rewinding to see if this guy was ever mentioned by name or what his relation to the story was but could not find any. My prayers go out to the mother of the precious little boy.

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  11. i would also like to know who is the guy in the white truck???.....is it james?......i'm glad carl is dead!......& did they ever find carl's mother?......i saw nothing wrong with showing this movie.....mabe it will open parents eyes to NEVER let your child out of your site!........& maybe it will open the authorities eyes to never let kids who kill out of jail......let them rot in there FOREVER!............i feel so sad for the mother of the 3 yr. old......

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  12. It is an obscenity to make this film and profit from such a horrendous incident. It is also ridiculous to place it as happening in America. There is no way that 10 yr olds in America would have the considerations these boys were given. They would have been tried as adults sent to adult prison in solitary confinement for the rest of their natural lives. The biggest statement about this whole horrific incident revolves around this moral delema of children killing children which is not something that gives the American judicial system cause to consider. The prisons are full of children doing adult time

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  13. Aonymous1034 February8,2015 at 8:50 p.m.
    This was done nice and this does show parents they need to be a where of where their child is and who their child is playing with.I my was broke because of what happen to the 3 year old boy.Too many young kids are becoming killers they should be put in prison for the rest of their life.Our Courts are not strong on the ones they need to be.

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  14. Sadly, I did not get to watch the ending of this movie but it interested me enough to look up the details of the story and I ran across this forum..Tragic about the death of the little boy and the pain his loved one will always go through. While watching the story, I kept in mind that James and Carl were children themselves and even though they committed this horrible crime, being an eternal optimist, I was hoping for repentance and redemption for both James and Carl.. What they did to the 3 yr. old boy was unforgivable to most of us. Remember I did not get to watch the whole movie and did not know Carl had died..I plan to do more research on the story but as far as condemning the storyteller, he did an outstanding job of informing us, the public. I personally think this story needs to be told for obvious reasons and he did an outstanding job in spite of it being a low budget film. Would love to see the movie in it's entirety....

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  15. Who is the guy in the truck at the end????????

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    1. I wanted to know the same thing! I watched this movie last night. I just can't wrap my head around the whole thing...Is this movie totally true...I know they killed the poor boy but did one grow up and kill again???

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  16. I am also confused about the guy at the end... Overall I thought the story was told well. It should teach parents to always be watchful of their children... It only takes a blink of an eye for them to be gone .I'm a mother of 2 toddlers and could never imagine going through something as horrible as this. I agree that stories like this should be told but in respect to the families affected. My deepest sympathy to the parents and family of this innocent child.

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  17. The guy at the end in the white truck was also in the beginning in a motel room watching a news report on the story and holding a rifle... Who is he??? How does he fit into the story? The ending leaves you asking who it is.

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