How could the man who made “Squirm” and “Blue Sunshine” go wrong with a horror film in the classic slasher style? (If anything, he must have learned what NOT to do. Squirm is one of the most embarrassingly horrible horror films ever made). Jeff Lieberman’s new horror film “Satan’s Little Helper” is leaps and bounds better than “Squirm”. In fact, it’s better by far than most indie horror slasher flicks. Funny, graphic, and fun, “Satan’s Little Helper” is extremely enjoyable, even for those who can’t stomach hardcore horror or cult flicks. Why? Because “Satan’s Little Helper” has a way of reinventing the hugely popular Horror on Halloween concept in a way that is entertaining and classy (i.e. films like “Night of the Demons 1 & 2”, “Halloween 1-7”, and “Snapshot” all use the same basic premise.)
Even from the opening moments Amanda Plummer (as the mom) and Alexander Brickel (as 9 year old Douggie) are funny and spout interesting dialogue. Douggie, malefic and cute, is obsessed with his new video game “Satan’s Little Helper”. He is enamored by the idea of Satan and has his mom make a Satan’s Little Helper costume for him for Halloween. Cute and harmless? Well, probably. When Douggie and his mom go to the ferry to pick up his sister Jenna, his dreams of a happy Halloween are shattered. Jenna has brought home a boyfriend from college! And he wants to crash the family’s Halloween! Enraged, Douggie sets out to find his own Halloween fun, which he does in the form of a mysterious masked stranger dressed as, well, Satan. Playing a game he doesn’t understand, Douggie helps “Satan” kill the innocent and wreak havoc on the small community of Bell Island. Happy to be a good helper, Douggie doesn’t see the danger he has gotten his sister, his mom, his dad, his sister’s boyfriend, and heck, all of the damn town into. Mayhem, death, destruction, and stalking ensue.
This darkly comic look at the world of evil through the eyes of a child is invigorating after so many teen slasher flicks. Yes, teenagers do die, but in a fun way. Does Douggie learn his lesson? Yes, but not until he really learns it. The beauty of this film is that it doesn’t use any real gore. There are a few scenes that employ blood and guts, but in general, gore-to-death-ratio is quite low. Instead, Lieberman relies on laughter, suspense, and sheer terror to get a reaction out of the audience. Uber creepy, the masked man (Joshua Annex) never removes his Satan mask. He’s not a Michael Myers silent type, nor is he a talkative Freddy character. He never speaks, yet manages to communicate a dynamite personality beneath the mask. Lieberman isn’t afraid to incorporate laughter into his film; he wants you to see the funny side of horror films and to be able to laugh as well as scream. Often, “Satan’s Little helper” will have you chuckling and jumping n the same scene.
Dead people as Halloween decorations, scoring points for running over blind, pregnant, and sick people, and the childishly selfish actions of young Douggie make this an almost impossible story not to laugh at. Not to be too original, Lieberman made sure he included the regulation plot twists and red herrings. The identity of the killer remains at large, even at the end. One of the best parts of this movie is this ambiguous ending. There is always an uncertainty about whether the masked killer is, in fact, a loosed psycho (there is an escaped criminal who is a suspet, of course) or, through some strange occult power and the magic of Halloween, Satan himself.
Like any good horror film, “Satan’s Little Helper” plays off of our worst childhood fears; the ideas of god and evil, heaven and hell, and of the punishments for choosing unwisely. It’s a rare treat to see a Halloween-based horror film succeed, but this one does an amazingly fun job of it.