Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: "Little Evil" is another fun, yet downgraded Eli Craig horror-comedy

Little Evil Review

When I wrote about this film's trailer not too long ago, I discussed how much I liked Eli Craig's first film "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil." While the movie was a sly and shameless ode to slasher movies. It had its own pulse, it had its own style and it didn't feel like any other horror-comedy I could think of at the time. I figured Eli Craig could become a new, exciting voice in the world of horror-comedy, two genres that walk on the same line, but that not all directors master. His second film, "Little Evil" is more parody than original idea, which is another tricky thing that can end up putting a filmmaker into a straight jacket. The film mostly parody's "The Omen," but there are also funny references to "Rosemary's Baby," "Poltergeist" and "The Shining." 

The story is simple and probably easy to digest for anybody who has been a big fan of this genre. A man named Gary (Adam Scott) marries a woman named Samantha (Evangeline Lilly) and together, they start to build a life together. Gary inherits Lucas as his stepson, Samantha's son from a mysterious relationship Gary doesn't know much about. Lucas, played by newcomer Owen Atlas, is as one could guess, very strange. It seems like bad things happen when he's around. He doesn't talk. He looks creepy. He even wears a nice suit, because we all know that little kids in suits are very scary. Gary catches wind that Lucas may have been conceived when Samantha belonged to an old cult. Gary soon believes that Lucas is the Anti Christ.

There are two types of spoof that I've noticed over the years, and the funny thing is that Mel Brooks is responsible for perfecting both of them. For better or for worse. The first type of spoof is one where the director soaked up everything from a certain genre or a certain type of film, and builds jokes from that. When we look at "Young Frankenstein" and "Blazing Saddles" and "High Anxiety," it shows us that Mel Brooks had a very deep understanding about Universal monsters and westerns and Hitchcock mysteries and built striking humor from soaking those things up like a sponge. The second type of spoof just remakes certain scenes and scenarios and tries for the easy, slapstick joke. You can see that most notably with "Spaceballs." It seems like Eli Craig is aiming for the first type of spoof at times, and when he focuses his energy like that, the film is funny. But it mostly leads down to the second type of spoof. Craig uses the easy joke each and every time. While sometimes the movie works, its mostly predictable humor.

Adam Scott and Evangeline Lilly both do good work here. There are also some good performances by Clancy Brown and Donald Faison. Owen Atlas gives a good creepy look and perfects the spooky little kid look. This cast does a good job landing some of the funny moments and I will admit, I laughed. There were some moments I enjoyed. This is not a comedy where I didn't laugh. I can't say that I laughed a lot though. I also can't say that I found Craig's work super clever. That is a little disappointing. His first film showed so much potential and promise, this just felt like a bad parody. But when good moments land, they land hard. I still think that Craig is still a fun director and storyteller. I just hope he does something ambitious again, instead of something that feels like product.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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