Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Review: Satan’s Little Helper

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2022
Images from the Internet

Satan’s Little Helper
Directed by Jeff Lieberman
Intrinsic Value Films; Synapse Films; MVD Entertainment
96 minutes, 2004 / 2022
Yeah, I know, the focus of this film is on Halloween night, and we are well into the seemingly never-ending Xmas season. But my assumption is that whoever is reading this is a horror fan, and it is Halloween all year ‘round. I will take this film in that – er – spirit.

The main focus here is on the Whooly family, who live on the fictious Bell Island. There’s the mom, Merrill (Amanda Plumber!!!), Dean (Wass Stevens), sister theater majors Jenna (Katheryn Winnick; Lagertha from “The Vikings”) and her new boyfriend Alex (Stephen Graham) who have come home for the holiday, and especially nine-year-old Douglas, aka Dougie (Alexander Brickel).

Joshua Annex

Dressed like the debbil for Halloween, Dougie is obsessed with a handheld video game called “Satan’s Little Helper,” where his avatar helps Satan kill people. The game is above 8-bit, but lacking by today’s standard. He is fixated on this theme, and hopes to meet the red guy on Halloween and help him. Meanwhile, he is totally possessive of his sister, and is not happy about Alex (something tells me a future action will occur).

While Winnick dresses like a Renaissance slut (and lookin’ good in it) and Alex decides to also dress like Satan hoping to bond with Dougie, while Dougie is walking the Halloween Day streets looking for the real Satan. But he does find the next best thing: a non-speaking serial killer in a devilish mask (Joshua Annex). Actually, the mask looks great. He goes to various houses, kills the occupants, and puts them out in front of the house as Halloween decorations, right in public. In this way, Dougie fulfills his fantasy of being this Satan’s little helper.

Alexander Brickel, Annex

While everything that has happened before is enjoyable (other than a pet killing), it really picks up in the second act, when Dougie brings the killer home, and he is mistaken for someone else, so is incorporated into the family unit. Yet, still, he manages to get around the town with Dougie long enough to cause numerous deaths and damage; Dougie so fixated, he has trouble distinguishing reality from the game, so he does not believe the carnage to be real, even as he watches, and in some ways, participates.

The devil comes home to roost when he returns to the Whooly house – er – and all hell breaks loose. And let me add, Dougie is not the sharpest stick in da woods. Actually, none of the cast seems to be fully conscious. For example, and I will not give it away, but there is a thematic device is that is used twice. People will probably figure it out at least the second time (I did on the first, but I’m a stable genius). You would think one of the characters who was involved with the first one would recognize the pattern for the second one. But nooooooo.

Katheryn Winnick, Annex

Despite this, I have to say this is the first slasher film I have seen in a while that made me smile in its imaginative take. Yes, there is a sense of humor to the whole thing, but my enjoyment went beyond that.

The SFX is practical (thanks to a low budget) and looks really great. The acting is also worth noting (did I not say Amanda “Honey Bunny” Plumber?). The Dougie character is a bit annoying, but I do believe it is not the fault of the actor. The cast also works well together.

Amanda Plumber (far left), Annex, etc.

To start off the extras is a full commentary by the director, Jeff Lieberman. His tone in kind of flat and monotone here, unlike on some of the other additions, but the information is worth the listen. He is still an engaging speaker (though the sound was a bit low and I had to turn the volume way up), and there are a lot of good stories – just the various locations and how they were all edited together alone was fun – also giving some info on the film that I did not catch during the first viewing. Worth the watch.

Next is a “Behind-the-Scenes of Satan’s Little Helper” featurette (5 min), obviously done in 2004, when the film was released. With narration, they dissect three scenes and show the viewer how the magic was done. Fun. This is followed by another featurette, “The Devil and the Details: Making Satan’s Little Helper (33 min). This brings us into 2022, giving us interviews with the director, other crew members such as the guy who designed the mask, and an adult Dougie (who’s “look” is similar to middle period Weird Al Yankovic). Interspersed with scenes from the film that are relevant to the conversation, it makes for some compelling viewing, unlike many other featurettes I have seen of late.

“Mister Satan's Neighborhood” is a tour of the filming locations with director Jeff Lieberman (32 min). Showing some towns in Westchester, New York, and Connecticut, Lieberman (holding the killer’s Satan mask throughout, even talking to it) takes a very detailed look at some of the locations, but also tells some (in Dougie’s words) cool anecdotes about filming in these spots. More detailed than most, though he did not show any of the Maine spots. Filmed in 2022 by Synapse Films, this is, again, one of the better location shot mini-docs I have seen of late. The last extra is the film’s promotional trailer, which gives away too much of the fun.

Lieberman’s history is that he is mainly known for four films out of his career in the horror genre: Squirm (1976), Blue Sunshine (1978), Just Before Dawn (1981), and this one. His films are a bit quirky, lean toward black humor, and are exceptionally enjoyable. That is especially true for Satan’s Little Helper.

IMDB listing HERE https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0380687/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

Older trailer without as much given away:

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