Little Evil movie review: Eli Craig's Netflix ode to iconic '80s horror films is a great watch

Mihir Fadnavis

Sep 20, 2017 12:23:28 IST

4/5

When Netflix decided to spend $6 billion a year for programming, I was confused about their strategy. There was the House of Cards approach where a big name filmmaker like David Fincher is attached as a showrunner for new content, but that would not exactly benefit lesser known talented filmmakers .

With releases like Little Evil, it is now clear how Netflix is going to dominate the film industry in the years to come. This is a kind of film that is tailor-made for the platform — hilarious, catering to all age groups, subversive and constantly entertaining — hallmarks of content that can be watched any time any where on any device with anyone.

Little Evil movie review: Eli Craigs Netflix ode to iconic 80s horror films is a great watch

Still from Little Evil. Image courtesy Netflix

Little Evil is written and directed by Eli Craig who has earlier made one of the biggest cult hits of all time — the horror comedy Tucker and Dale vs Evil. Much like that film, Little Evil is a subversive comedy with a horror backdrop, a hapless protagonist and unexpected surprises. It’s also a sendoff to pretty much every famous horror film made in the 80’s — from Poltergeist to The Omen — with exquisite homage detailing to the craft, clearly showcasing Craig’s utter love for the genre.

The film doesn’t waste any time in bringing out the chuckles. A woman (Evangeline Lilly) running on a rainy night finds a young boy (Owen Atlas) standing with a shovel over what seems to be a grave. The woman demands to know what the boy has done; when she gets no answer she digs up the grave and finds a man (Adam Scott) about to be buried alive. But instead of this being a horrific moment, the man looks angrily at the woman and asks for a divorce. It’s just one in a series of moments that turns something shocking into an amusing self aware genre splice.

As you could probably guess from the title, the story chronicles a problem child who may or may not be connected to something nefarious, like Damien from The Omen. Scott’s stepfather character is inserted into the story becoming a double entendre — a foster parent to presumably the child of Satan, but also just another American step dad trying desperately to make his stepson accept him in his life. It’s nice to see the film exercising the meaningful social commentary thread we’ve seen in recent horror films instead turning into a mindless shock fest.

While the best moments in the film belong to Scott and Atlas’ disastrously failing father-son bonding, Craig takes the child and step dad dynamics to hilarious new levels with a therapy group full of stressed out men trying to make their kids love them. Sally Fields (who is director Craig’s mother in real life) gets a couple of laugh out loud moments satirising the evil nanny character from Omen. Bollywood fans of Dum Laga Ke Haisha will find one key scene from that film ported here which works so well even though the similarity may be purely coincidental. The only missed opportunity is Clancy Brown as a shady Reverend — although he presents an intriguing antagonist he’s ultimately wasted in a predictable reveal.

Craig works around the tiny budget as best as he can with minimal VFX — which works for the film because it lends more time for fun character moments. There is some VFX-ey stuff in the finale but even the terribleness of the CGI is cleverly used to comedic effect. But what works best is the timing of the jokes and the lightness of the material — which makes you want to watch it again and also recommend to others. That is the kind of content that will truly make Netflix threaten movie chains, because if you’re getting such high quality cinema right on your computer screens legally, you wouldn’t bother going to the multiplex and stand up for the National Anthem.

Little Evil is available to stream on Netflix India.

Updated Date: Sep 20, 2017 12:23:28 IST

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