The best thing about Satan’s Little Helper (2004), dir. Jeff Lieberman, is that it is set on Halloween. So, not only did I watch a horror movie, I indulged in one that was the right fit for the season. The premise of this movie is a big win, and it’s easy to see that a little money went a long way with this picture. Unfortunately, the story seemed to run a bit long, and the more the plot unfolded, the less interesting the movie got.
The first half hour of this movie is pure gold. Douglas, who must be the most ignorant child on the devil’s green earth, is so addicted to a handheld video game that he bases his Halloween costume on it. Dressed as Satan’s little helper, Douglas excitedly asks his mother if the devil is real. Her answer sets up an entire movie. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially she says that he is because he is a symbol for evil, and bad things happen everywhere. Spoiler alert: bad things are about happen. Later, when Douglas teams up with what he thinks is the devil, he is of course oblivious as to what that means. He sees the devil as a character in his video games, who hits people with shopping carts and rips their guts out for points. Poor dumb Douglas does not understand the difference between violence and fantasy violence. So, when his very evil human companion begins to murder right in front of him he does not think it is real, asking if he can be the helper and even sicking Satan on his sister’s new boyfriend. So, the first thing viewers are going to have to do for this film, is put their common sense far, far aside. Even if Douglas were an even younger child, it’s is entirely unbelievable that he would be so ignorant as to become the accomplice of a murderer, and run around town doing evil all because it sort of seems like something in a game he plays. No kid would do this. No kid would talk to a stranger in a costume and hold their hand because that person nodded in response to their questions. Even if they did, I think any child would feel incredibly put off by someone who never spoke to them, or refused to take of their mask. Maybe it’s because I have always grown up hearing “stranger danger” and was generally timid as a child, but it just all seems very far fetched. Even more nuts, Douglas will continue to invite other masked, speechless guests into the house, even once he realizes that the violence he has committed was actual murder, and that the person he calls master is in fact very bad, in a very real way. With that said, if you put all of this logic out of your mind, this movie is really amusing. Douglas is so stupid that it’s laughable, and indeed, I think it’s intended to be. Seeing this child giggle and yell out “50 points!” as the “devil” pushes an old lady off of a roof is just so ridiculous that it will make you want to see how high of a score the duo can rack up. This could have been the entire movie, and I think people would have liked it. Even if Douglas had discovered his error at the end of the story, left with his tears and regret, the movie would have been a success.
It’s too bad that instead, it does take too terribly long before Douglas watches in terror as his speechless master disembowels his father, sending the rest of the family on a mad chase to stop the evil doings for continuing. And this family is not at all clever. Honestly, based on the choices they make, I don’t think Douglas’ sister should be all that upset when her boyfriend is murdered. And Douglas’ poor stoner of a mother is so painfully unaware of what’s happening around her, that you will end up hoping to see “the devil” choke her with her own Chiquita banana hat. The longer we watch Jenna and Alex run around looking for her mother, and attempting to stop the killer because he has already gotten to the police, the more tedious the movie gets. It’s just not what we care to see. The killer is too likable from the get go, and if you are anything like me you’ll end up rooting for him to get away. Even whenever he shows up in the truly creepy Jesus costume. None of the disappointment of this movie is due to the effects, though. They are kept minimal in a smart way, and any murdered folk are pretty believably stabbed and put on display in their own front yards. I have to kind of wager that this movie came from that classic conversation: “it would be easy to get away with murder on Halloween”. Even the acting here is fine. Indeed, the actors are quite convincing in their mindlessness, and a big kudos has to be given to the man behind the mask, who communicates so much without being able to use his own voice or facial expression.
In short, I just wish Satan’s Little Helper hadn’t strayed away from its dark comedy. I would probably watch this movie again, and I’d actually forgotten that I’ve seen it once before. In another four years, maybe I’ll just watch the first half.