Little Evil (2017)
★ / ★★★★
The would-be horror comedy “Little Evil,” written and directed by Eli Craig, is an unambitious, barely TV-movie quality picture in which the humor is broad and the horror is non-existent—characteristics that are exactly wrong in the kind of film it wants to be. It is a formless, toothless, unintelligent bore, relying too many times on pop culture references when it should have bothered to forge an identity of its own.
Craig’s screenplay targets only the lowest hanging fruit, thus assuming the audience is not smart enough to engage in a story that is worthwhile. Although the filmmaker wishes to play with the trope involving a child who might be a spawn of Satan, there is no central thesis. It were as if the writer-director had forgotten to ask himself why the sub-genre works in the first place. Broken down to its basic elements, these stories touch upon the fear of fatherhood, feelings of deep uncertainty, perhaps even reluctance, perverted into such a hyperbolic extreme that these concerns turn into paranoia. This is a picture unconcerned about psychology or the trials of parenting.
Adam Scott and Evangeline Lilly are unconvincing newlyweds. Barely sharing any chemistry, their lines are recited in automaton-like manner, supported by fake-looking interiors of a home that is obviously shot in a studio. Those in charge of set pieces do not even bother to get the small details right. Put these scenes side-by-side with sitcoms that do not even last a season and they share numerous similarities. Perhaps the only thing missing is the laugh track. Maybe because the material is not funny enough to deserve one.
Horror-comedies are pointed, specific, and filled with purpose. There is almost always a balance of amusing moments and dead-serious revelations that get under the skin. Notice that within a span of fifteen minutes, it attempts to put on way too many hats but fails to excel in any one of them. In one scene it is a buddy comedy and the next it is a supernatural thriller. It does not spend enough time wearing the same pair of shoes so that it can dig in and excavate the uneasiness of being a step-parent. At least there is Bridget Everett, a butch lesbian step-dad named AL, the protagonist’s enthusiastic co-worker. Her portrayal, and the character, is more interesting than everything else in the movie.
The mediocrity of “Little Evil” shows a lack of inspiration. If the writer-director were inspired, he would have strived much harder to deliver work with hints of originality, at the very least. Instead, what we find on our laps is regurgitated dross, an insult to the mind and the senses, a complete waste of our limited, precious time.