JULY 12, 2008
There’s a scene about halfway through Satan’s Little Helper that delighted me more than any movie I’ve watched since Cathy’s Curse. The scene involves “Satan” (whether he actually IS or not is never explained) and his eponymous helper running people over with a shopping basket in a parking lot. The kid thinks it’s all a game, and gleefully yells “50 points! 100 points” as these poor people (including an old man, a baby, a pregnant woman) are mowed down. I don’t think any of them are actually killed, but it’s still a real treat for fans of ridiculous, mean-spirited horror.
If the entire movie had this sadistic sense of humor, I would be singing its praises to high heaven. But unfortunately, about an hour in, the kid’s father is gutted right before his eyes and the rest of the film is pretty much without humor. It also drags out incessantly (the sudden lack of humor making it even more noticeable); shaving 20 minutes off the running time would do everyone a world of good. Once little Dougie no longer thinks its all a game, it loses a lot of its odd charm. Plus, since he’s not the hero, he also sort of disappears from the movie at this point, adding to the disjointed feel of the final act.
And when he DOES appear, he acts borderline retarded. The premise is goofy, but they sell it well and you don’t really question the kid’s mental abilities at first. But after he discovers his friend really IS killing people, you’d think he’d be weary of a guy in a Jesus mask and a cop in a human mask (both the killer, again). But no, he quickly accepts these people at face value and puts his family in danger yet again. Stupid fucking kid.
Also, the “50 points!” stuff comes from a game he is playing on his fake PSP. It is, without a doubt, the worst fake video game I’ve ever seen in a movie. In addition to being a lousy game, it doesn’t look or play anything like one (it’s like a Flash cartoon). Obviously they had to pay someone to make a dummy game for the movie – why not just pay for the rights to use a crappy game no one remembers anyway that involves a devil looking guy killing people? There’s gotta be a few. Since the whole movie rests on the idea that this kid is so obsessed with the game that he thinks it has come to life, it’d work a lot better if the game looked worth playing at all, let alone consuming you.
There are also a few unexplained things. At some point in the movie, the town is overrun by a few looters. Why they are looting, who they are, etc is never explained. There’s even an entire scene of them beating the shit out of a vacuum cleaner for some goddamn reason. There is also a red herring that’s so badly implemented that it’s a wonder they even bothered. Especially since they never quite explain if “Satan” is indeed Satan or just some guy – just a few too many vague story elements for one movie.
And in my notes I have “doorbell”. This refers to the really annoying doorbell the main family has in the movie. It rings, I dunno, some 582 times during the 95 minute film, and if I ever hear it again I can’t say for certain that I won’t hunt down writer/director Jeff Lieberman and smack him for it.
Even more annoying is the way that the DVD is set up. You hit PLAY MOVIE and you are forced to watch a few trailers (even when you select the commentary track under extras). This is bullshit – put that shit BEFORE the main menu, like everyone else. The fact that all of the movies look fucking awful doesn’t help (though one trailer is for a movie I almost rented the other day – so I guess it’s a sign I should). Also, it appears that they got bootlegged copies of the green MPAA rating info screen:
What sort of crap is that? Where’s the “The following PREVIEW has been approved for ALL AUDIENCES....” stuff? Weird. Speaking of the commentary, it’s not really worth a listen; Lieberman is very monotone and just sort of talks about low budget filmmaking, which anyone who watches commentaries has already heard a million times by now (by livelier folks). There’s also a nice little behind the scenes bit which Lieberman narrates (and is seemingly more interested), showing the filming of two key moments. I wouldn’t have minded if it went on a bit longer, in fact.
Anyway, the movie is definitely worth checking out. It’s a shame it loses steam (remember – the ending of your movie is what often forms the overall opinion of it) because the first hour really is something unique and wonderfully insane. I haven’t even really talked about a lot of the nutty moments (for example, the kid wants to marry his sister, and the mom (Amanda Plummer!) doesn't really try to dissuade him), because they should be experienced first hand. Definitely check it out.
What say you?