Little dumb too…
As we saw yesterday, and other times this year, Netflix is proving to become a valuable bastion of neat little gems. But, as many people who have Netflix n’ chilled could attest, sometimes the mood can be brought down. Today’s film doesn’t really shit the bed, but it does wet it that we’re annoyed to change the sheets after we just cleaned it and the film is just so damn unappreciative and…my metaphor is kind of breaking down at this point. Screw it, this is Little Evil.
So Gary Bloom (Adam Scott) has just married the love of his life, Samantha (Evangeline Lilly), even though he struggles to connect with her 5-year-old son, Lucas (Owen Atlas). The boy is very quiet and withdrawn (and also has eyes in which he looks like he wants to kill Gary without a moment’s thought). On top of that, disaster and death seem to follow this kid no matter where he goes, despite Samantha’s protests that the whole world unfairly treats her son. After confiding with a support group of other step-parents lead by Gary’s coworker Al (Bridget Everett) that his stepson might be a “little evil,” Gary makes the horrifying discovery that Lucas is in fact the Antichrist, and he’s about to start the apocalypse
On paper, the movie has all the earmarks for an edgy family comedy, something a la Krampus. But in execution, the film comes out far messier due to it wanting to be a “fun-for-the-whole-family” affair and a grissly, dark horror comedy, at the same time. It’s a tough balancing act to follow, and unfortunately, this film doesn’t how to balance the sentimentality with the mean streak. Which is a damn shame, because this film is written and directed by Eli Craig, the director behind Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, an actually great horror comedy with a unique spin on the “cabin in the woods” set up. For Little Evil, Craig is obviously trying to spoof fare like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby, but he runs into multiple problems in getting his jokes to land.
Part of the weak delivery comes from your protagonist, played by Adam Scott, who plays a comedic straight-man without a goofy or wild partner to contrast with (see The Nice Guys or Hunt for the Wilderpeople for a crash course on this dynamic). The film doesn’t know if he’s the impotent, useless kind of straight-man or the rational voice in an irrational world. Scott tries what he can to make the jokes work, but there’s not much there for him to work with, and further, you don’t really believe he’s the kind of guy who would stick around Evangeline Lilly “out of love” even as his step-son proceeds to terrorize him in increasingly threatening ways.
On top of that, the film unwisely decides to make Lilly’s character seem ignorant of the fact that her son. It’d be one thing if one or two weird events were happening around her son, but her character had a history of boyfriends who either died horribly or were driven to the point of asylum-seeking insanity AND she has to save the life of her new husband after her son literally tries to kill him…and she blames him for the predicament. Look, unless her character was an oblivious idiot (which she’s not), nothing she does is remotely buyable. So the jokes don’t land because you’re too busy wondering how absurd everyone is acting. Don’t bother asking if the kid helps matter either. Sure he looks all creepy, but that’s all he’s got going for him.
Plus he and Adam Scott’s character also have to function as the big character arc for the piece, as they attempt to make some bullshit message about “love conquering evil.” But such a sappy message is more befitting of a kid’s movie. Not a film where you see multiple die or suffer grievous injury through impalement, burning, natural disaster, and torture. The tonal dissonance on display just becomes more and more distracting, and you can’t even enjoy the film’s outlandishly goofy moments because they literally come out of nowhere. Including one gag involving a monster truck that seemed to only be there because the budget was probably unused for much else.
Now to be honest, I got a few chuckles here and there, but nothing was able to get me to groove with it. Part of that is the pacing of this thing is just dull, part of it has to do with aforementioned tonal inconsistencies, and party of it has to do with the fact that the majority of jokes just don’t land. The film didn’t really know who their audience was, and that’s ultimately what dooms it to the realms of forgotten-hood.
Didn’t hate it, didn’t dislike it, but I find very little in here to recommend. If you’re really bored and need something to pass the time for an hour and a half, I suppose this will suffice as a very, very, very, VERY low…