We’ve all had those experiences with children on a bad day that leave us wondering, whether they are ours or not, ‘how can this tiny little human have so much vengeance and evil within it’? All of the parents reading this are likely nodding their heads ‘yes’ unanimously. Whether you admit to having the thought or not is your choice, but we all know.
Little Evil is a Netflix Original horror-comedy film that features Adam Scott as Gary and Evangeline Lily as Sam – a recently married couple – and the struggles Gary encounters on his new journey into fatherhood, as he comes to fear his step-son may be the devil incarnate.
Sam’s son, Lucas (Owen Atlas), gives us quite the performance ranging from precious to demonic (as most children are). Lucas’ outbursts at school, at his birthday party, and even with the 5-0, engage in some very terrifying behavior that would make most parents reach out to a psychiatrist or, better yet, an adoption agency. Lucas is a quiet and reserved child, so Gary and Sam’s quick marriage seems to be the culprit of these outbursts. Gary, never having his own children, wants to find a way to connect with his new step-son but just can’t seem to get there yet. The child that forces people to set themselves on fire may have something to do with that, but who can really say?
The film starts right off the bat with Lucas burying Gary in the backyard. Just typical father-son bonding, right? The father-son dynamic really builds later on in the film, but the beginning focuses on the comedy aspect of how downright creepy this child is. He doesn’t make eye contact often and when he does, it’s like the devil’s grimace staring into your soul. He doesn’t speak much, except when his goat puppet (sign #39587 your child is demonic) speaks for him telling someone to go to hell. And of course, we love it when children bring us creatures from the ground in their hands, saying absolutely nothing but holding them out to you while burning holes into your retinas from their devil-gaze. Ahh, parenthood. The story builds on Gary’s journey to figure out what is happening with his step-son and how he can manage to do the things he does.
Eli Craig (Tucker and Dale vs Evil) wrote and directed this story and does a very nice job of it, especially considering his catalog of work is still progressing. If you’re still reading and somehow not sold on this yet, let me express to you how fantastic the tone, cinematography, and editing are. If you’re a fan of Shaun of the Dead, let me assure you that this is the film for you. Not as dark as Shaun in terms of tone, but you’ll certainly enjoy the scene-to-scene cuts, very reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead. It’s that same quick-jab change of scene that succinctly happens with the sound of objects moving.
The tone in this film is very light and gives Adam Scott’s character realistic responses, as if this were happening in our own living room. Often in horror/demonic films, the characters are so oblivious to the signs that you wonder if they have any brain cells left. Well, lucky for us, Adam Scott isn’t that naïve once he gets past his own internal suppression. For that, I applaud Eli Craig for his development of this character. These sorts of things help make the comedy aspect of horror films come alive, though. So, in response, we of course must have naïve characters who don’t acknowledge anything that’s going on (that would be you, ‘Sam’).
We are given a couple other small cameo scenes for plot movement and humor, which may or may not be necessary but are well worth the investment. I’ll let you experience those for yourself and see who you recognize. Another character that tended to be a little bit ridiculous – but not too much – while still making us laugh and disapprovingly shake our heads, was Bridget Everett’s character, AL, a ‘stepfather’ who regularly attends a group therapy session for her own step-son. AL works with Gary at the real estate office and somehow manages to join him on his demon journey, ever encouraging tequila shots. She’s interesting.
Overall, Little Evil has a nice pace to it and doesn’t prolong the film to be any longer than it needs to be. We’re given a great cast to enjoy on screen and a weird but interesting plot. The subtle similarities you can find and connect with in this film and parent-child relationships are interesting if you notice them. If not, don’t fret, there’s still plenty of laughter to get you along this ride. Adam Scott doesn’t disappoint (as if he could), and neither do Owen and Evangeline Lily. The tone, editing, and direction are all on par for what an audience enjoys in a horror-comedy. If you somehow have avoided a Netflix subscription, Little Evil is just the enticement you were looking for.
Starring Adam Scott, Evangeline Lily, Owen Atlas
Written by Eli Craig
Directed by Eli Craig