Step-fatherhood is never easy. Children often refuse to communicate openly, or act out in various ways. But no book on parenting prepares one for step-fathering the literal antichrist. Most children don’t conjure massive tornadoes when their parent marries a new man. Most children don’t ignite birthday clowns after their step-father tries to reach out to them. Certainly, most children don’t exclusively communicate through a goat sock puppet named Reeroy who speaks with the voice of Satan himself. What’s a guy to do?
Little Evil, Netflix’s latest movie, begins on a dark and stormy night as creepy gothic music plays in the background. Lightning strikes, illuminating the creepiest child known to man, who is standing underneath a broken swing set on an upturned pile of dirt. A woman sprints toward the scene shouting “Gary!” After she puts the child in time-out, she digs up a pine box and pries it open to reveal a shaking man. She pleads with him to say something, but all he can get out is an emphatic “I want a divorce!”
Flashback one week earlier. Gary (Adam Scott) is moving into his new wife Samantha’s (Evangeline Lilly) house. Out back, her son Lucas (Owen Atlas) is swinging on the squeakiest swingset that has ever existed. What’s even creepier: Lucas is wearing a beret.
As Gary and Samantha talk (read: exposit), they allude to a horrible disaster at their wedding. The audience learns that Gary is a realtor, as he gives Rev. Gospel (Clancy Brown) a tour of an abandoned nunnery. He prophesies the end of the world, but Gary brushes this off after the Reverend agrees to purchase the property. Gary is suddenly called away to his stepson’s school because Lucas was in trouble. The principal tells Gary that Lucas told his science teacher to go to hell. She proceeded to pour lye on her face and then threw herself out the window, impaling herself on the fence. Kids can be so cruel.
Most of these events are common horror tropes and clichés. Little Evil pulls them off well because, like Cabin in the Woods, it pokes fun at the genre it is a part of. Little Evil is a part of the diametrically opposed and sparse group of movies known as horror-comedies. Finding this on Netflix is especially remarkable, as the horror section on the website is scarier than the movies themselves. Gary’s continual acceptance of incredibly unnerving and ridiculous situations is played ad nauseum to demonstrate the frustrating ability of horror movie characters to ignore every sign of their impending doom until the bitter end. Lucas chews on the scenery in his attempt at creepiness, drawing attention to many horror flicks unabashed use of corrupted children to play up the fear factor. Samantha casually brushes off Lucas’ demonic actions as eccentricities and mentions his conception during a satanic cult ritual in an off-hand conversation to illustrate horror characters fervent denial that anything out of the ordinary is happening.
Little Evil does, however, suffer from a few problems of its own. Halfway through, the film tries to pivot to an entirely different tone, but stumbles for a while along the way. Little Evil also tries to push a moral message which, while sweet, ends up leaving a saccharine taste in the mouth.
Fans of the horror genre who aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves a little will find it very fun, akin to Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. On the other side of the aisle, those who look down on horror as a genre, in favor of the more refined “thriller,” will also enjoy Little Evil. All of the actors do a very good job playing along, and the film gives glimpses of many other comedic actors in bit parts, which adds to the wink-wink nod-nod feeling of the movie. Little Evil doesn’t break any new ground in terms of comedy or horror, but this small film is a fun diamond in the rough of Netflix’s content.
Featured Image by Netflix