When Gary marries the woman of his dreams, he is shocked to find out his new stepson may be the literal antichrist, in Little Evil.
Little Evil is a Netflix original, and was directed by Eli Craig, best known for his debut feature Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010). Little Evil is very much in the same vein as his previous work, as the film’s main attribute is the fusing of the horror and comedy genres, as well as an attempt to subvert genre stereotypes and conventions. At this stage in his career, Craig’s main ethos seems to be putting a familiar idea into a new perspective.
While on paper it sounds like an engaging concept with the potential to be an excellent film, it never reaches those heights. There’s a laziness to Little Evil that makes it difficult to connect with the film or its characters. Everyone is one-note and two-dimensional. This especially applies to the supporting cast who are essentially first draft caricatures, with little substance and sub-par one liners. ‘First draft’ is a very apt way to describe the film. The ideas are there, the jokes are there, the style and voice are there, but none of these elements are fleshed out. They all feel like a first pass; the story is half finished, there are glaring plot holes, and the supporting characters feel like placeholders for something better.
Issues of character and humour aside, the film’s biggest issue is how badly it handles what should have been its main draw. That is, the comedic take on a horror trope. In this case, Little Evil’s biggest touchstone is clearly The Omen (1976), which is even directly referenced by characters in the film. Unfortunately, rather than taking the tropes of the ‘evil child’ sub-genre and making something of them, Little Evil instead uses them in a way that suggests it intends to subvert them, without actually doing so. It doesn’t use these tropes so well that we forget we’ve seen it all before, and it doesn’t flip them on their heads and shock us with a new take, it just sits in the middle and doesn’t accomplish much of either. Furthermore, the references to films like Poltergeist (1982) and The Shining (1980) throughout the film, make it difficult to discern how much of a parody Craig wanted this film to be. Add to this the Edgar Wright style flare in the editing, and the film feels quite derivative (and not in the way it intended).
Despite this being the biggest issue, the character and plot issues don’t go unnoticed. Although there’s a slightly absurd feel to the film, some of the plot machinations feel too ridiculous to believe. For instance, marrying a woman with whom you have never lived, who has a child you have barely spoken to. While there are light allusions to why this may have happened, it just doesn’t cut it. And Evangeline Lilly, who plays the mother of the antichrist, and wife of our protagonist, is given little to do, aside from fulfilling the role of the oblivious and over-emotional female love interest that we unfortunately see in far too many films.
The most irritating plot hole, however, has to be that Evangeline Lilly, playing Samantha, claims her son was conceived when she was in her early twenties in college. This is a main plot point. Her son is five years old, soon to be six. This is another main plot point. Samantha has had at least three marriages in the time since the birth of her son. A third main plot point. Even ignoring the fact that the actor is in her late thirties, this timeline is ridiculous and sloppy. Clearly this timeline issue isn’t going to single handedly cripple the film’s plot, but it is indicative of how half-hearted and rushed Little Evil feels, and perfectly encapsulates the macro issues of the film on a micro level.
With a few more drafts and a stronger voice and message, Little Evil could have been as great as the films that clearly inspired it. But ultimately, it promises a lot, yet delivers very little.
The twins in The Shining are paid respects to in this film. You see them wear the exact color of clothes in this film.
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