No company that produces a lot of movies every year, gets it right 100% of the time. For every time that jump shot hits “nothing but net”, there’s those ‘air-balls’…the near-misses to the outright “HTF does this movie even EXIST???”
Netflix is no exception, and this time the ‘almost-got-there’ award goes to writer/director ELI CRAIG’S LITTLE EVIL (2017). Craig, you’d think, would be a shoo-in for an OMEN-like horror parody, especially since he co-wrote and directed the beloved cult classic, TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL. LITTLE EVIL’S biggest downfall is that it’s missing the perfect balance of guffaws and gore that TUCKER AND DALE had, while giving horror genre tropes the vigorous thrashing they deserve. LITTLE EVIL is the movie that wants to be a better-made SCARY MOVIE when it grows up, but doesn’t quite get to the mark.
Even the casting informs you of what kind of movie it’s supposed to be, starting with ADAM SCOTT (KRAMPUS). As Gary, the harried stepdad to the ‘Son of Satan’, he does perplexed and terrified exactly the way you’d expect him to, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. EVANGELINE LILLY (LOST), as Samantha, has a great comedic range we were never treated to while she was on that show, and she hits every note as Gary’s gorgeous wife and mother to OWEN ATLAS’ Lucas, our cute-as-curses little Damien Thorn stand-in.
Then there’s the supporting cast, including KYLE BORNHEIMER, DONALD FAISON, CHRIS D’ELIA and the magnificently unhinged BRIDGET EVERETT as “Al”, Gary’s lesbian co-worker who introduces him to her stepparents’ support group. All of them are as funny as the movie allows them to be, and gratefully Everett gets a lot of scenes with Scott that are some of the movie’s best moments.
There are even some ‘big guns’ that Craig pulls out, including great stand-up comedian BRAD WILLIAMS as a ‘demon-hunter’; CLANCY BROWN, who’s been known to knock-out an offbeat role or fourteen, as “Reverend Gospel”, who has a keen interest in Gary’s family, and last, but certainly not least, SALLY FIELD, (as far as she can get from THE FLYING NUN,) as “Mrs. Shaylock”, (yes, I groaned out loud, too), a “CPS rep” who also takes an interest in Lucas – HUGE surprise there, or course.
It’s pretty evident – right down to Lucas’s Damien-lookalike outfit – what Craig is going for with this. OMEN references abound, with even a scene with a “wedding photographer” who has evidence of Lucas’s Satanic proclivities – played by none other than “Dale” himself, an almost unrecognizable TYLER LABINE. But unlike its recent compatriot, THE BABYSITTER, LITTLE EVIL has neither the guts-and-gore level to get into ‘splatschtick’ comedy-mode, or the humor that would take it into nonsensical SCARY MOVIE territory.
Neither completely dull nor addictive and recommendable, LITTLE EVIL still manages to be entertaining thanks to a game cast, and Craig’s smart decision to let the actors just do the things they do best. When you don’t know what you want to watch, it’s a great popcorn flick that will be as forgotten as the last kernel in the bucket when it’s all gone. Two-and-a-half out of five stars.