You wouldn’t think it based on the premise, but Eli Craig’s latest movie about a young antichrist is funny as hell.
Little Evil, which hit Netflix on September 1, stars Adam Scott as Gary Bloom, the hapless new stepfather of a creepy boy that’s definitely the spawn of Satan. Gary’s marriage to Evangeline Lily’s Samantha ought to be perfect; she’s the woman of his dreams. But Gary’s angelic new wife is blissfully unaware that her son Lucas is pure evil.
Little Evil tells the same sort of story as The Omen, the classic horror film about another “demon child.” But Craig, the man who brought us horror-comedy gold with Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010), takes his version of the well-known story in a decidedly different — and funny — direction. Much like Tucker & Dale, Little Evil transforms a classic horror premise into a gruesome black comedy of errors that goes to some weird, oftentimes hilarious places.
Scary things also happen in Little Evil — including lots of gore — but the movie cares more about displaying how normal people react in hilarious ways to these circumstances. Every “evil child” horror trope is somehow flipped into a genuinely funny punchline. In that regard, the film really succeeds as a new staple in horror-comedy.
Spoilers follow for Little Evil.
Bad things happen to people around Lucas. The kid does and says the creepiest things imaginable. Little Evil satires pretty much every horror classic that includes some manner of possessed child. The most obvious comparison is The Omen, but it doesn’t shy away from Poltergeist or The Shining either. He also causes a clown to erupt in flames, which reeks of It.
The original version of The Omen (1976) and its faithful remake (which came out 6/6/06, by the way) both tell the story of an American diplomat in Italy who adopts an orphan baby after his own son dies during childbirth. The child, named Damien, grows up surrounded by death that he — or perhaps “it” — causes through demonic means. In the desperate third act of each film, armed with knowledge and a special dagger acquired from some religious zealots, the protagonist takes a literal stab at killing the child. But, he invariably fails, which may or may not lead to the end of the world.
Damien from The Omen and Lucas from Little Evil even look remarkably similar. Each totes a kind of well-dressed, long-haired creepiness that you apparently need as the antichrist.
Lucas, as played by Owen Atlas, is downright terrifying. These kinds of overt connections between the two films almost makes Little Evil a comedic remake of The Omen rather than a horror film in the same subgenre. Whereas both versions of The Omen have bleak, hopeless endings where the Devil wins, Little Evil explores a seemingly impossible third option: Co-existing with the Devil.
Little Evil wastes no time in tackling its central mystery. Lucas definitely has something demonic going on, and it’s confirmed relatively early on that he is indeed the spawn of Satan.
Early on, Gary is called to Lucas’ school because the boy told his Math teacher to “go to hell” and she promptly poured chemicals on her face and jumped out the window, impaling herself on the fence outside. As the viewer, we know right away what Gary somehow remains lightly skeptical of: This kid’s the real deal.
Gary does consult with religious figures, but in a hilarious and unexpected turn, he’s given counsel by people from group therapy sessions for other step parents with troubled children. In this way, Little Evil is kind of about a step-father struggling to connect with his new son, which is much more relatable.
In rom-com fashion, Gary also has a bizarre circle of friends that offer advice and strange personalities. Chief among them is Al, a woman that loves monster trucks and ‘80s rock. It’s a strange choice, yet somehow works.
A satanic cult orbits around the troubled family until becoming a prominent part of the third act. Sure enough, there’s a “special knife” that can be used to kill the child. But rather than resolving that conflict with that magic dagger, Little Evil sees Gary accept Lucas for who and what he is. They learn to love each other as step-father and step-son, and by embracing the titular “little evil” rather than fighting against it.
It makes for a clever and satisfying resolution to the step-father and -son dynamic, but a potent, disconcerting resolution to the whole antichrist thing. Quite simply, it’s perfect for what the film needed with its modest 95-minute runtime.
Could this be the next cult classic horror-comedy that people murmur about for years to come? We’ll have to wait and see.
Little Evil on Netflix is one of the best horror-comedies streaming right now.