Let’s just get this right off the bat. Damn this film is weird.
Satan’s Little Helper is directed by Jeff Lieberman, whose other directorial and writing credits include ‘Squirm’ and ‘The NeverEnding Story III: Return To Fantasia’, two films that I have never seen and probably will never see. The film was shot in 2003, premiered in 2004 and released straight-to-DVD in 2005, so it took a good few years for it to see the light of day with the general public. Satan’s Little Helper is best described as a dark comedy, rather than a flat out horror film.
The plot revolves around little Dougie Whooly (Alexander Brickel) who is obsessed with one of his violent video games, ‘Satan’s Little Helper’ which looks more like an amateur Newgrounds flash project rather than a retail release, but I digress. This obsession prompts a conversation with his mother where they discuss Satan’s existence in reality, to which she essentially feeds his warped little fantasy of being the devil’s partner in crime (great parenting there, mother). His sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick) is visiting home for Halloween with her boyfriend Alex (Stephen Graham), much to Dougie’s dismay because he apparently is in love with his sister and wants to marry her one day, thus making Alex competition. Awkward. Anyway, they arrive back home where Dougie wanders the streets in his Halloween costume, the title character of his favourite video game and our feature film, Satan’s Little Helper.
He eventually comes across a mysterious figure dressed in black and wearing a demonic mask. This man is actually a serial killer who is arranging the corpses of his victims on their front porches in the broad daylight, he has no name, history or dialogue in the entire feature, he just is. Dougie befriends the killer, who communicates through mime-like actions with him, asking to be his ‘little helper’, to which the psychopath agrees. What follows is a night of carnage where Dougie and his new found friend go around terrorizing and murdering townsfolk, Dougie is convinced it’s all a joke, oblivious to the rising body count until it reaches his own home.
|Excuse me young man…..
The dark comedy aspect however, is definitely the saving grace of the feature. There are some unforgettably enjoyable scenes within the film, one of the most memorable includes a cat and a boarded up window. Squishy. Despite what I would presume is a low budget, the film actually looks great, taking great use of the resources given to them and really putting across the idea of a small, secluded town, similar to that of Haddonfield, Illinois in John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’, an obvious inspiration for this film. The killer himself, portrayed by Joshua Annex, is the true star of the show, despite not having a single word of dialogue or true identity, he oozes with personality through the use of his movement and reaction timing, a perfect example of dark pantomime. There are some brilliant death scenes in this film also, which for the most part, are quite original and well executed, no pun intended. One particular role reversal near the end of the film is borderline hysterical with dark irony.
One of the biggest flaws, however, with this film is the writing. The characters are unbelievably stupid, even for a horror film, it’s really something that has to be witnessed to be believed. Usually you have one or two idiots in a horror film who eventually meet their maker fairly early on, but Jesus, I think the water supply for this town was spiked by chemicals that cause brain damage. Perhaps Lieberman expected us to tap in to our suspension of disbelief, but at one point the idea of incest is brought into conversation and I really have to wonder if this family is aesthetically short of a sixth toe and a hump from starring in The Hills Have Eyes. Their collective IQ must be a single digit. It doesn’t help that Alexander Brickel is awful in the lead role, you just want to reach through the television and strangle the little bastard every second he’s on screen. Now, I know, I know, he’s a child actor, expecting a bit much? But if Alex Vincent can essentially carry two slasher films on his own at a younger age than Brickel, it’s just a case of horrible acting. He just comes across as a more annoying younger version of the dungeons and dragons kid from ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’.
However, one could also see it as satire. Dougie is an exaggerated version of what news networks portray children who are exposed to violent entertainment, unable to separate reality from fiction. The social commentary on a child’s distinction to differentiate what’s right and wrong is heavily present, however, at eight years old, I didn’t believe in Santa Claus, let alone Satan.
Although the film is quite ridiculous with some of its flaws and character portrayals, it does have a certain charm to it. I mean this IS a straight to home video horror film, so you really can’t expect much in the way of sheer cinematic quality. It’s entertaining and it gets the job done, you could make many other poor choices to spend ninety minutes. For £1, yes, I got this film on DVD for £1, which is roughly $1.40, it was certainty worth the investment. I would definitely recommend that you give it a watch, even just to see how odd it really is.
– Jozef Hamilton