Is there such a thing as the “feel good” horror sub-genre? I think there is. You know what I mean, right? You put on a horror movie sometimes, not to be scared, but to chill and get lost for a couple of hours. Take Little Evil as a recent example.
Little Evil tells the story of Gary (Adam Scott) and how he’s adjusting to the two biggest changes of his life: getting married to the woman of his dreams, Samantha (Evangeline Lilly), and becoming a stepdad to her son, Lucas (Owen Atlas). Everything’s moving so fast for him, but he can’t help but be happy — that is, until he tries to bond with Lucas. Something’s not quite right. The more he attempts to get closer to his stepson, the more these weird little things start happening, things like bodily earthworms, impaled teachers and burning party clowns. Hints are falling from the sky (literally) and none bigger than the footage captured of his wedding. It all adds up, and hey, here’s a thought: could Lucas actually be the antichrist?
I wasn’t aware until right before watching Little Evil that this was written and directed by Eli Craig, who gave us the hilariously intense Tucker and Dale vs Evil. Instant joy washed over me, and after his newest effort was over, the first question I asked myself was why was there a seven-year gap between Tucker and Dale and this? I surely hope it wasn’t purely because of anyone or anything holding him back. Tucker and Dale vs Evil was a smash, and Little Evil proves, with a thunderous laugh, that he’s not a one-hit wonder. By the time this movie was over, I was beside myself with giddiness.
One of the biggest impacts Little Evil gives us is its ensemble. The casting of every single player here, from Scott and Lilly to the supporting cast like Bridget Everett as Al, Gary’s best friend, is superb. The interactions Scott and Everett have are priceless, as well as his interaction with the stepdad support group he goes to (it was fun to play “who’s who” among the faces, followed up with a funny bit about taking a shit in a backpack). The bam of the ensemble is so impressive and filled with genuine chemistry, it still has me laughing as I’m writing this. I want to share some of the best jokes — but no spoilers. Even Atlas works wonders with his limited dialogue and barrage of expressions (I’m a stickler for bad child acting but that’s a conversation for another day). We even get cameos from three actors that are so grand — but once again, no spoilers.
Craig deserves praise for bringing the cast together and letting their energies merge, but even with all of that, the foundation for such a chemistry is always the script; that’s where Craig shines the brightest here. It’s a script that’s lively, well-paced and confident in making us believe that we’re watching a straightforward account of parenting pure evil. Normally I’m not a big fan of a movie opening with a scene that we’re going to see again in the middle act, and I’m sure I’m not alone on that. It’s as if Craig was banking on that. Little Evil doesn’t take many twists and turns, but when it does, it’s pinpoint and done with love. That last point speaks to the rest of the movie. In the two projects given to us by Craig, it’s evident that he adores not just his own story, but everything and everyone involved.
The gathering of the crew under the direction further proves that love. In a low-budget film, it’s not the most common thing for elements such as set decoration and editing to be discussed but Little Evil, combined with Craig’s love, is just as much a showcase for the technical wonders as it is for the acting. There are some really cool things going on with the chosen locations, their dressing, and the cinematography. Editor Tia Nolan is no stranger to cutting up comedy (the name popped at me when I realized she’s also done work for Angie Tribeca), and the splice work creates a beautiful marriage with the music, done by the wonderful Marco Beltrami, and Brandon Roberts & Marcus Trumpp. Everything combined is just a pure labor of love (and that’s also a reference to one of the movie’s cornier moments), and that got me thinking about the term “feel-good horror.” As I mentioned above, it’s about relaxing and getting lost in the best possible way. But the more I think about Little Evil, the more it’s making me expand on that. This movie isn’t the end-all, be-all game changer but it’s so damn wonderful in its spirit that it became infectious. It made me want to get up and tackle an obstacle head on. It made me want to be positive.
Horror movies that inspire creativity are something to be treasured, and the same thing goes for horror movies that inspire positivity. Little Evil goes through something of an awakening as it paces on, and by the time it ends I actually found myself cheering and clapping. This one’s going to be on my radar for a long time, because I know if I’m feeling down, this will be one of my options to lift me up.