As far as independent horror films go, “Satan’s Little Helper” is one of the better ones to come down the pipe in recent years. It follows in the footsteps of “Dead Birds” as an effective genre entry executed on a modest budget, with a first half that hits on all cylinders, and a second half that could have benefited from some script trimming. The movie, a black comedy with a noticeably sadistic streak, offers up the tale of a precocious young boy named Dougie (Alexander Brickel) who is obsessed with a game called “Satan’s Little Helper”, whereby a young child is taken under Satan’s wing and proceeds to lay waste to the game’s citizenry. As it so happens, it’s Hallow’s Eve, and Dougie is in search of a Satan to call his own.
Since “Satan’s Little Helper” is a movie, and movies got to be movies because they are, for the most part contrived storytelling, Dougie of course stumbles across a masked serial killer who is using the day’s festivities to bump off as many unsuspecting victims as he can before the night is up and his foul deeds are discovered. Upon being confronted by the tyke, the killer, dressed up in a black long coat and wearing a Satan mask, decides to take the willing apprentice under his wing. Of course Dougie thinks it’s all just a game, which is why he goes along as Satan “play acts” killing people. Can Dougie’s hot sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick), who is home from college for the holiday, save her little brother before it’s too late? Better yet, will Satan get lucky when Jenna mistaken the killer for her boyfriend?
Nevertheless, as black comedies go, “Satan’s Little Helper” has more than its share of inspired moments. A long sequence where Dougie and his murderous mentor goes grocery shopping is quite funny, especially the cart rampage scene in the parking lot, where writer/director Jeff Lieberman indulges in his sadistic side by having Satan run over a pregnant woman, a baby in a carriage, and a blind old man — in that order. Which doesn’t mean the film is all chuckles, because it is quite violent, with Satan committing his murderous rampages using hangings, stabbings, and at one point, ripping a man’s guts out and tying it to a chair. Now that’s just mean.
It would be quite hard for “Satan’s Little Helper” to work if there wasn’t a convincing actor in the role of Dougie. And while young Alexander Brickel (in his debut) is no Haley Joel Osment, he does enough good work not to annoy, which is really all you can ask for from child actors in this day and age of “hip” and smart aleck movie kids. As the sister, Katheryn Winnick will certainly get all the boys in the audience humming with excitement. Alas, it’s a No on the gratuitous nudity and sex front. While the attractive Katheryn Winnick does indeed flaunt her God given assets in a “wench costume” for most of the film, she remains under wraps, which is a crying shame.
“Satan’s Little Helper” has an excellent pace until towards the end, when things seem to grind to a halt so Lieberman can pull out the tricks. The script offers up a couple of false endings that only works because the characters are essentially morons, and the script is filled with plot holes. Take a scene toward the end of the second act when Satan, now exposed as a killer, confronts the family. After doing away with the father, Satan casually walks into the kitchen in search of weapons. Now any person with common sense would immediately run to the door a couple of feet away (now remember, Satan is in the next room) and leave the house. But not our Einsteins. Oh no, not these dummies, who stays exactly where they are until Satan comes back from the kitchen. Holy Unbelievable Plot Contrivance, Batman!
And while “Satan’s Little Helper” works very well in its first hour, the second half becomes a victim of its own ambitions, with Lieberman’s script going for clever when straightforward would have done just fine, if not better. The main problem is the killer’s motivations, which becomes inexplicably grandiose as the film chugs toward the end, and soon the murderous masked man is pulling all kinds of sleight of hand and out-of-left-field twists. There is absolutely no reason for this at all; why unnecessarily muddle what should have been a straightforward killer on the loose movie ala the first “Halloween”?
But I’m probably being too hard on “Satan’s Little Helper”. It’s a refreshingly good independent horror film for the most part, and there’s plenty about it to recommend. Oh sure, Jeff Lieberman should probably have stuck to “simple is better” instead of piling on the plot twists near the end. And yes, the script could certainly have found better (re: slightly more logical) ways to get from point A to point B without completely turning the laws of cosmic common sense on its head. In any case, “Satan’s Little Helper” is a good horror film, with enough guts and blood for the casual gorefiend, and more than its share of chuckles courtesy of some inspired comedy bits, such as Satan sniffing panties in the basement while Dougie is upstairs trying to set up an ambush for his sister’s new boyfriend.
Then again, it still annoys me that the whole family just stood there and watch the killer butcher someone, then stood there some more while Satan went into the next room to find some weapons with which to do them in next. I mean, Jeff, come on.
Jeff Lieberman (director) / Jeff Lieberman (screenplay)
CAST: Katheryn Winnick …. Jenna
Alexander Brickel …. Dougie
Amanda Plummer …. Merrill Whooly
Stephen Graham …. Alex Martin
Joshua Annex …. Satan Man