Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 99 minutes
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Marking Jeff Lieberman’s return to genre pictures after over 20 years (his last horror film, the seriously underrated “Just Before Dawn” was released in 1981), “Satan’s Little Helper” is a darkly humorous, but never campy take on media violence. Despite relying on a few too many genre clichés (everyone doing the stupidest possible thing at all times), Lieberman is careful to stay away from pedantic satire and manages to craft an entertaining and original modern horror yarn.
Douglas (Alexander Brickel) is a weird, spoiled little kid. Basically neglected by his stoner mother (a pitch perfect Amanda Plummer) and absentee father, he spends most of his time playing the “Satan’s Little Helper” video game his father purchased him. When his sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick), whom he has a somewhat disturbing fixation on, returns from college with new boyfriend Alex in tow, Dougie doesn’t take it very well. Instead, like the petulant brat he is, he takes off down the block to look for his hero Satan. And he manages to find him, arranging what Dougie assumes are fake bodies onto the lawn of a neighborhood house. Douglas quickly recruits Satan Man (as he is listed in the credits) to take care of Alex and the two depart on a campaign of mayhem across their tiny island town. Unfortunately, what Douglas doesn’t seem capable of registering is that his silent companion is, in fact, a vicious serial killer and what he assumes is “a fun game” quickly turns into a nightmare as Dougie’s family becomes the target of Satan’s fury.
Lacking in serious gore, except for the key scene in which Dougie finally figures out that Satan doesn’t play games, the most shocking thing about “Satan’s Little Helper” is how the director has no qualms about involving a child in the commitment of serious crimes. Although not participating directly for the most part, Dougie’s complicity in Satan Man’s acts of violence is both a surprising and risky choice on Lieberman’s part. Unfortunately, as an actor, Alexander Brickel is a little too cloying to add real weight to his character and his choices. In fact, he comes across as so spoiled and stupid that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been abducted by perverts years earlier.
However, maybe this is Lieberman’s point. Between Dougie’s whining, Alex’s yawn-o-rama stories of abuse at the hand of his father and Jenna’s God awful “English” accent, you kinda spend most of the movie waiting for them to get hacked to pieces. Which makes Satan Man the real hero of the movie. Like most good horror movie monsters Satan Man (who’s identity is never revealed, another one of the film’s strengths) manages to be both charismatic and menacing. He is humorous, but never campy and his change of costumes near the end of the picture is particularly inspired.
Unfortunately, the film never really overcomes it’s low budget limitations and a string of plot contrivances means that it never really gains enough momentum to be really fun, or as chilling as it could have been.
Posted on October 31, 2004 in Reviews by Mariko McDonald
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