Little Evil is a parody of the Antichrist trope found in numerous horror movies. However, it’s not parody on the level of something like Scary Movie or A Haunted House. While Little Evil does reference quite a few horror movies, particularly The Omen, it doesn’t do it in such a blatant way that renders many modern parodies to be less cinematic and more just a series of jokes weakly linked together with the barest of narrative threads. While the movie can’t be considered a subtle satire of the genre, it’s subdued enough to feel like a complete narrative rather than a mishmash of scenes. Eli Craig helmed this project as both writer and director, and while he doesn’t have many projects under his belt, he is known for Tucker and Dale vs. Evil which did have a positive reception among horror fans and critics alike.
Our story begins en media res with Samantha (Evangeline Lilly) desperately trying to find her son Lucas (Owen Atlas) and husband Gary (Adam Scott). It’s literally a dark and stormy night, with thunder and ominous music enhancing the eerie mood as she tries to find them. We soon learn that the Lucas has buried Gary, who is his step-father, alive in the backyard. Samantha makes a concerted effort to free him from his tomb and Gary declares that he wants a divorce. The movie flashbacks to a week earlier and we see a much happier Gary excited to move in with his new family and be step-father.
It’s easy to see that Gary has a hard time connecting to Lucas, who just gives him blank stares when he tries to interact with him. Any time that Gary brings up a concern about his new step-son to Samantha, she writes him off and offers up excuse after excuse for his increasingly disturbing behavior. Even during the opening scene, the punishment she declares for Lucas for burying his step-father alive is a time out! After an incident at school that nearly mirrors the events with the babysitter in The Omen, Gary comes under fire for Lucas’s issues and is ordered to go to group therapy especially for step-fathers. This is where the cast of minor characters is rounded out, most notably Al, who is also Gary’s coworker. The two seem to be best buds throughout this situation. Al is the one who Gary relies on the most when dealing with Lucas, especially after the big, no surprise, reveal that he’s the Antichrist comes to light and their mission becomes clear.
The horror movie allusions are apparent right from the beginning, but they aren’t presented in an over the top manner. Different characters and homages are sprinkled throughout, and if you have even a passing knowledge of most of the major movies in the genre, you’ll get the references. Eli Craig’s aesthetic is akin to Edgar Wright’s, because like Wright, Craig borrows scene composition and editing techniques from other directors. There are occasional sequences where he cuts quickly between actions such as Gary getting coffee and snacks for work after dropping off Lucas at school. These served as great scene transitions and felt right at home for this horror comedy.
The reveal at the beginning sets-up wonderful moments of dramatic irony. Gary struggles so much with wanting to make it work with Samantha and he often talks about not wanting to give-up. It makes the viewer wonder how much more will he excuse for the sake of saving his new marriage. There is plenty of foreshadowing in the movie as well. Some of it is more overt and part of the main action and dialogue, but some of it is literally written on the walls. This makes for great subsequent viewings to see if all the clues stand out and what initially flew under the radar.
Those accustomed to more in-your-face parody movies might be disappointed in Little Evil’s more subtle style. While several horror movies are referenced, it’s usually in a small moment of the movie, and not for an over the top laugh. But for those that don’t mind a bit more subtlety in their parodies, there is much to enjoy about Little Evil. Underneath the horror comedy aesthetic lies a sweet story about a man who just wants to be a better father… to the literal Antichrist.