Welcome to Funny Bones, Nightmare On Film Street’s look at horror comedies. Each month, we’ll examine the skeletal structure of a horror-comedy, how the film connects its unique brand of funny and creepy, as well as the metaphorical fleshy details laid over that skeleton which bring the movie to life!
It’s “Hot as Hell” month at Nightmare on Film Street, which means we’ve been examining a multitude of films that treat the idea of hell as a literal infernal realm populated by monstrous denizens. Humans also perceive hell on a metaphorical level, though, as a place or or series of dreadful and punishing tasks. Both visions of hell have produced some fantastic horror films, but when you combine them together like writer/director Eli Craig (Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil) did for the 2017 Netflix original film, Little Evil you get the recipe for a very fun and funny horror comedy.
Little Evil tells the story of Gary Bloom (Adam Scott, Krampus), a real estate agent who recently a married single mother named Samantha (Evangeline Lilly, Ant-Man & the Wasp). While they were dating, she kept Gary away from her son Lucas (Owen Atlas) because she wanted to be sure he was “the one” and because many of her past suitors had met bizarre and untimely ends. Gary is committed to being a great husband and father because he didn’t really know his own dad. That commitment is quickly tested though by a number of shocking revelations that suggest that Gary’s stepson is, in fact, the antichrist.
Essentially, Little Evil is a spoof of The Omen mixed with the type of comedies that were common in the early 2000s like The 40 year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Role Models. Those films usually featured men thrust into roles that they were ill prepared for, who grew over the course of the picture, and got by with help from a cast of quirky supporting characters. There are a quite a few of those idiosyncratic types in Little Evil like Gary’s best friend, co-worker, and fellow stepdad, Al (Bridget Everett, Patti Cakes), and the members of Gary’s new stepfather support group. My favorite of the oddball supporting players were Al and Victor (Kyle Bornheimer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), a not two bright stepfather who’s having problems with twin daughters who look a lot like the little girls from The Shining.
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“Essentially, Little Evil is a spoof of The Omen mixed with the type of comedies that were common in the early 2000s like The 40 year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Role Models.”
You might not think that type of comedy would blend well with an Omen parody, but it does because Eli Craig has a clear affection for the original 1976 version of the classic satanic film. There are so many nods to it in Little Evil. When Gary first arrives at his new home, Lucas is on a swing set and wearing the same iconic outfit that Harvey Stephens’ Damien was wearing at the end of The Omen. Midway through the film, Gary pays a visit to his wedding photographer played by Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale Vs Evil) who is meant to be a nod to David Warner’s photographer character in The Omen. At one point, Gary and Al even talk about the events of The Omen and what happens to Gregory Peck’s character.
Demonic films were a pretty common type of horror comedy in the late 2000s. 2015 saw the release of Ava’s Possessions and Deathgasm. The Dolph Lundgren film , Don’t Kill It, was released in 2016. And Little Evil wasn’t even the only infernal horror comedy released on Netflix in 2017. It hit the streaming giant in September, and one month later saw the release of The Babysitter starring Samara Weaving.
Most of those horror comedies though involve possessions, demons, and cults. None of them tackle the idea of the anti-christ. The other thing that makes Little Evil interesting from a horror perspective is that when horror focuses on blended families usually it’s the stepfather (as exemplified in the classic 1987 film The Stepfather starring Terry O’Quinn) that’s the horrific figure. Here, though, the stepdad is the sympathetic, well-meaning hero.
Most of the horror in Little Evil is played for laughs that heighten Gary’ predicament as a stepfather in over his head, but there are some genuinely creepy moments. Director Craig, and cinematographer Matthew Clark have a knack for shooting darkened rooms and creepy hallways. Plus, there’s a scene involving Gary and worms that’s very unsettling.
“You might not think that type of comedy would blend well with an Omen parody, but it does because Eli Craig has a clear affection for the original 1976 version of the classic satanic film.”
So, Little Evil expertly blends comedy and horror, but what really makes it stand out is its two leads, Adam Scott and Owen Atlas. At this point in his career, Scott was already the veteran of fantastic comedy tv shows like Parks and Recreation and Party Down and Michael Dougherty’s Christmas horror comedy Krampus. So he’s got perfect timing for the film’s comedic and horror beats. As Lucas, Atlas doesn’t have very many lines, but he sells the creepy and comedic nature of his character with some great expressions. Plus, Atlas and Scott have a great chemistry together that really give the film some genuine heart.
If our month-long trek through hellish and humid horror has got you in the mood for some laughs, why not checkout or revisit Little Evil? It’s a refreshing horror comedy that shows how funny and frightening things can get when you blend together literal and metaphorical hells. Once you do, let us know what you think on Twitter, our Subreddit, and the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!