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Film / Little Monsters

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Little Monsters is a 1989 film starring Fred Savage and Howie Mandel. Brian (Savage) has recently moved because his parents thought that the family could use a change of scenery. Shortly afterward, strange things start happening for which Brian is blamed. Brian, in turn, blames his little brother.

Eventually, Brian meets Maurice, a monster and the real culprit. Together they break into people's homes and play "amusing" pranks on them. Brian decides that he doesn't want to do this anymore after he starts turning into a monster. Brian's brother gets kidnapped by the villainous Snik, leaving Brian and his friends to rescue him, and they all end up in Malibu, California.

Not to be confused with Lady Gaga's fanbase, the Mercer Mayer book nor the zombie comedy Little Monsters (2019) of the same name.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Downplayed with Brian's father, Glen. Although he is shown to be quite kind to Brian at times, he can be quite unsympathetic and rude to him, not caring for his explanations and instead punishing him while jumping to conclusions.
  • Action Girl/Badass Bookworm: Kiersten, who looks suspiciously similar to Haley from The Wizard, another movie starring Fred Savage.
  • Agony of the Feet: Narrowly averted. A demented teddy bear that Boy has approaches Brian, and uses a drill that is imbedded in its head to skewer through his foot. It puts a tear in his sneaker, but he notices and kicks it away before the drill could get to his bare toes.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: This is Maurice's response when Kiersten comes up with a plan to make light using pencils.
    Maurice: Light from pencils? Sure, and I'm the Pope!
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: After Boy and Snik are killed by the heroes, the other monsters whom bear witness burst out in cheering, most particularly because Snik is gone. Maurice even joins in with them, singing, "Ding, dong! Snik is dead!
  • Angry Collar Grab: Snik does this with all of the people whom he confronts throughout the movie.
  • Baseball Episode: Occurs in the movie in which Brian and Maurice play "monster ball", where players take turns swinging bats to hit baseballs to hit glass objects around the arena, with people trying to catch the ball.
  • Big Brother Instinct: After Snik kidnaps Brian's brother (Eric) by order of Boy, Brian himself gathers his friends as reinforcements to destroy Boy and Snik in order to save Eric. They succeed.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The underground Monster Town seems to be small enough to make accessing a city across the United States seem like a walk across town. In addition some of the wooden stairs and structures seem almost M.C. Escher-like.
  • Bizarre Alien Limbs: A monster that Brian briefly passes while on his tour through the world of monsters is Gomer, who has legs that are longer than his whole body, which Brian passes under and between them.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: Brian enjoys having peanut butter and onion sandwiches. Her mother even notes that he's the only one in the family who likes eating such a meal.
  • Book Dumb: Brian. He is shown to be quite skillful in mechanics and engineering, but is not shown to do well in school. This is lampshaded by Kiersten, when he helps her make gadgets to take out the monsters, she asks him how he can be able to do this, yet he keeps getting F's in Science class.
  • Body Horror: We don't know what Boy really looks like; he wears the rotting skin and school uniform of a real kid over his own body. If his face is any indication, though, it's pretty horrible.
  • The Bully: Ronnie Coleman, who has one of the most bizarre Heel Face Turns ever. Subverted, though, in that he's only codified as a bully by obvious stereotype; the only fighting he does is retaliation for Brian braining him with a sandwich, which he didn't know was an accident, and he doesn't hesitate to help when asked.
  • But Now I Must Go: Once they rescue Eric and kill Boy and Snik, Brian and his friends decide to leave the monster world for good, as they do not want to become a part of that life. Although, Brian does let Maurice know that he wants to visit him someday.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Zigzagged. Kids are immediately blamed for every accident and slip up, especially those caused by the monsters, but not for things that interfere with the plot.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The supply room full of gadgets that Brian and Kiersten use earlier in the movie to work on a project is used when they sneak into the room to gather gear in order to save Eric and stop Boy.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Minus the comedic part (mostly).
    • The montage of breaking into random people's houses and playing pranks could be seen as supposed to be funny, but the following montage of offscreen screaming parents and terrified/crying children that get blamed for the pranks kills any intended humor pretty effectively.
  • Creation Sequence: For the monster trap, complete with '80s montage music. It even continues playing after Brian finishes setting up the trap.
    • And during dinner, oddly enough. Right in the middle of the montage.
  • Deer in the Headlights: When the children show back up at the monster lair, after escaping the dungeon that they were trapped in and getting more supplies to arm themselves, Snik and Boy are so stunned by the fact that they escaped and are about to destroy them that they just stand in front of them in sudden terror. This gives the children the chance to blow them away.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The opening shot, involving Brian and his family moving into their new house, is in pure black and white. It slowly transitions into color.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: There isn't much of a lead-in to the appearance of the Big Bad at the end... he's just there.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Implied. The Stevenson parents let their children know that they will be splitting up for a little bit. And at the end of the movie, while wondering where Brian is before he calls them from Malibu, the two parents are shown back together again.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: When Kiersten presents her report on her project, she is shocked to find it chewed up, due to Maurice doing it last night. She tries to use this trope as an excuse, but Ronnie points out that she doesn't even have a dog. She ends up failing the assignment.
  • Dragon Their Feet: After being blasted with light and Boy gone, Snik rebuilds himself and blocks the exit to the lair, preventing the children from getting out. However, Maurice appears behind him with a flamethrower, ready to roast him.
  • The Dreaded: Snik, The Dragon to Boy. He wears heavy metal clothing, a chain that is wrapped around his neck, he constantly has a lit cigarette in his mouth, and is feared by all of the other monsters in their world. When he confronts one of them for disobeying Boy, whom ends up having his head ripped off by Snik, the others immediately run away in fear. And when Snik is killed, the crowd of monsters whom watch it start celebrating.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: What happens when monsters are exposed to bright light.
  • Eye Pop: Occurs when Maurice introduces himself to Brian as an Establishing Character Moment, by having his eyes pop out with meaty eye stalks attached to them. This naturally freaks Brian out.
  • Failed a Spot Check: A pretty bizarre case is when Brian's dad comes in after he sets off the monster trap. He's shouted at for their being Doritos on the floor, but his dad fails to notice that he sawed through the legs of his bed and rigged them with hinges so he could collapse the bed and trap the monster in the room with him.
  • The Fair Folk: The monsters are all kids who stayed in the world under the bed for too long and have long-since forgotten their former lives; being exposed to light in the real world further disfigures them. It actually starts happening to Brian once he spends too much time in the monster world - he opens a door to flee a room full of monsters who are tormenting a baby, and his arm vanishes when the hallway light shines on it. This causes more than a bit of trouble when one of his few friends accidentally does the same with a flashlight.
  • Fisher Kingdom: The more Brian stays in the monster world, the more monster-like he becomes.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: How the movie ends, with Brian on the phone to his parents at a phone booth explaining why he and his friends ended up in Malibu.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture: Mr. Stevenson briefly does this to Brian before bedtime occurs in the room that he is staying in.
  • Friendship Trinket: When saying goodbye to Brian, Maurice gives him the jacket he was wearing throughout the movie, as a remembrance of the close friendship they had.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Brian is actually this. He is able to rig a bed up with pieces of his bike to trap a monster. And he uses his skills to make equipment for him and his friends to make flashing lights in order to take out Boy, Snik, and his goons all at once.
  • A Glass in the Hand: As he is confronting Maurice for bringing Brian down to the monster world and letting him go, Snik is holding a glass bottle of root beer, which he quickly crushes in anger.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The bully, for pretty much no reason given. It's implied that he's just the first person Brian and Kiersten think of when they realize they need another pair of hands to make their plan work, and they did the sensible thing and asked him to help.
  • Heel Realization: Brian, and it's the Central Theme of the movie; in the beginning, all Brian can think about is himself and the unfair things that happen to him. When he meets Maurice and is invited to abandon his few responsibilities, indulge in all his selfish fantasies, and torment whomever he deems worthy, he proceeds to go utterly wild. Luckily for him, tormenting a baby is his limit, and as a result he realizes he is becoming a monster - in every way imaginable - and flees, realizing that refusing to grow up will cost him everyone he cares for and his potential to accomplish anything positive in the world.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Once they take out Boy, Snik comes by and the revitalized Boy take out Brian and his friends' weapons and send them down a dungeon to trap them. However, Maurice is down there as well, and helps them escape. This causes them to go to the supply closet where they got their flashes from again to make more effective ones, and then go back to the Monster World to blow Boy and Snik away once and for all!
  • Humans Are Ugly: Maurice mentions a few times how ugly he thinks Brian is. And when saying goodbye to Brian before he returns to the human world, Maurice tells him that he is the ugliest friend that he ever had.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Ronnie has this reaction when he not only eats a tuna sandwich that had cat food in it, but also then drinking the apple juice he had that was actually piss (both of which were orchestrated by Brian and Maurice) much to his disgust.
    Ronnie: Piss! Who put piss in my apple juice?!
  • It's a Long Story: Brian says this nearly word-for-word at the end of the movie when calling his parents after he and his friends rescue his brother and escape the monster world... except due to the sun having already risen at home, they wound up all the way in California.
  • I Was Born Ready: Maurice asks Brian if he is ready to enter the monster world with him, to which Brian replies with this trope.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Boy and Snik are furious at Maurice for bringing a human boy down to their underworld, showing him their secrets, and letting him get away. Their solution? To intimidate Brian into silence by kidnapping his brother.
  • Jar Potty: Maurice uses Ronnie's empty bottle of apple juice that he drank out of to fill it with his own pee to use on Ronnie as a prank.
  • Kafka Komedy: But there's too much Kafka and not enough comedy.
  • The Key Is Behind the Lock: When slid under the door to free Brian and his friends, Maurice discusses this trope, asking them if they know how to pick a combination lock. It turns out he was only joking, and opens it by himself.
  • Kick the Dog: The monsters in this movie do plenty of mischievous deeds that throw shade their way, but the one that really takes the cake is when they gather around into a baby's room and scare her while she's in her crib. Brian, who is already starting to feel uneasy by their mischief, finally has enough of it.
    Brian: Maurice, this is cruel.
  • Killer Teddy Bear: One briefly appears to try and permanently damage Brian's foot.
  • Kill It with Fire: How Snik meets his end.
  • LEGO Body Parts: After ripping off a monster's head, Snik brings down another head and puts it on his decapitated body, where it seems to operate normally.
  • Loophole Abuse: If someone's sleeping in or on it, it's a bed. Even if it's in the middle of the beach.
  • Mood Whiplash: Seriously, this movie's tone is all over the place.
  • Monster Town: The underworld populated by monsters which serves as a hub to get into people's bedrooms.
  • No Sympathy: At the beginning of the movie, while backing his car up to go to work, Glen accidentally runs over Brian's bike (it was placed there last night by Maurice). He gets mad at him, and not only refuses to listen to his demands, but also gives him a hefty punishment. This is notwithstanding the fact that he already ran over his bike, thus destroying it, and does not feel bad for Brian at all. Brian even lampshades this, and his mother even notes that's a bit rough.
    Brian: So, Dad, you mean to tell me that my bike is ruined... and your car has a little dent in it - and I'm the one being punished? That's not fair!
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Boy does this trope to reason with Brian after he gets angry at him for kidnapping his brother. Boy mentions that he and him are so much alike, as he was a boy who indulged in mischief after visiting the world of monsters, and tells Brian he could be like him someday. Brian is not swayed at all by this explanation.
  • An Odd Place to Sleep: What the human children in the monster world eventually come across to return to the real world, which is a bed on a beachshore in Malibu, which is being slept in by a bum.
  • Off with His Head!: Snik does this with one monster (who looks like a little boy). He uses his hands to grab his head and tears it off of his body.
  • Only Friend: Eventually, in a heartfelt talk after Brian hears that his parents are considering divorcing, Maurice admits that he is this to him, and that this is why he keeps returning to him to hang out.
    Maurice: Believe it or not... you're the only real friend I've had. Why do you think I keep coming back.
  • Opening Monologue: The movie starts out with Brian's only narration on how he felt moving to Boston, and how he wasn't happy in his new town, until he met a new friend.
    Brian: We moved here about a month ago. My parents said it would be better for me and my brother Eric. They always say that when they want something. Everything was different. All the streets had different names. All my friends were far away. I was miserable. I hated it... until I met my first friend: Maurice. I'll never, ever... have a friend like him again.
  • Open Sesame: To get into the monster world arcade to show Brian, Maurice is required to say a password. He consults his brain, which makes a farting noise, and that is what the password is to open the doors.
  • Ow, My Body Part!: After his initial confrontation with Brian, Snik moans, "Ow, my back!"
  • Pants-Pulling Prank: Maurice at one point does this to Brian when they pass by a monster whilst strolling through the monster world.
  • Precision F-Strike: Kiersten's response to seeing Brian disappear by slipping under a bed is an understandable, "Holy shit!"
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Occurs right before Maurice burns Snik with a flamethrower.
    Maurice: Hey, Snik! How about a light, bud?
  • Pulling Themselves Together: After being blown to kingdom come with lights, along with Boy (who actually dies this time), Snik has all of his loose body parts put back together so he can continue fighting. It mostly succeeds, albeit with one of his legs missing a shin and calf.
  • Race Against the Clock: After defeating Boy and Snik, Brian and his friends go up to a bed portal to return to Boston, so they themselves don't become monsters. However, sunrise comes, which seals the portal. This requires them to move west across the monster world for a portal somewhere that will still be open for them to escape, and they are shown traveling around beds with portals across the country. They eventually come across a bed in Malibu, which happens to still be dark out before the sun hasn't shown there.
  • Reunion Vow: Occurs when Brian and Maurice are saying goodbye before the former goes back up to the human world, as he and his friends do not want to visit the underworld at all after their terrifying experience and nearly becoming monsters themselves, but Maurice is assured by him that he will visit him someday.
  • Revenge Is a Dish Best Served: To get back at Ronnie for giving him unnecessary trouble, Brian decides to have Maurice help him go into his house and tamper with his lunch. They put cat food in his tuna sandwich, and then fill his empty bottle of apple juice with piss. He is then witness to this attempt unfold.
  • Spit Take: Ronnie does this when he drinks his piss-filled bottle, which he happened to do right in front of the principal as he was passing by. It splattered onto his suit, much to his visible disgust.
  • That Came Out Wrong: When trying to reason with Snik as he's confronting him, Maurice says that he trusts Brian, as he's got a hunch. Snik assumes this to be an insult at his hunchback, and becomes FURIOUS.
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The whole set up, though most of them are more harmless troublemakers.
  • Tied-Together-Shoelace Trip: Maurice briefly does this to one monster while showing Brian around the world of monsters.
  • Title Drop: Said by Brian to Todd when describing the monsters, although it still seems forced as these monsters aren't exactly little.
  • Tomboyish Baseball Cap: Kiersten is often seen wearing a baseball cap throughout the movie, and she is also quite masculine.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Maurice. Thanks to his guidance, he teaches Brian all sorts of mischief that truly causes MAJOR severe consequences. Brian at first takes pleasure in this, but soon feels guilty when their exploits cause his crush Kiersten's homework to be destroyed. What really causes him to put his foot down towards Maurice is when he and his friends gather around to scare a baby right in front of him.
  • Truth in Television: To make Maurice turn into clothes, which would make him small enough to get under a door and free the children whom are trapped down there, Kiersten concocts a plan. She takes pencils, uses the lead in them and a telephone, and combines them to make light. Believe it or not, this technique is actually true.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The terrifying monsters can be taken out by having a bright light shown on them. Enough said.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Halfway through the film, the parents mention that they may be getting divorced. It's never really brought up again, except as the mother's excuse for Brian sawing the legs off all the beds. However, they are both seen together in the ending, implying that they made up offscreen.
  • Younger Than They Look: Maurice claims to be eleven years old (and to have been eleven for hundreds of years).