Evil Little Things

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Evil Little Things  (2019, dir: Matt Green; cast: Mason Wells, L.A. Winter, Geoff McKnight, Hannah Fierman, Courtney Hogan, Courtney Lakin, Jonathan Horne)





Evil Little Things is a horror anthology with only two stories, unless you count the wraparound. Dual terror anthologies are rare because fans generally expect more. The only other one I know of is Two Evil Eyes, but that one had a gimmick. Both episodes were based on Edgar Allen Poe tales, and each was directed by a horror celebrity: Dario Argento and George Romero.

Evil Little Things has no such pedigree. No horror royalty in its credits. But it's delightfully entertaining -- and memorable, largely due to its poignant heroine in the second tale.

The better anthologies unite their tales around a common theme or incident. In Evil Little Things it's dolls.

Evil dolls on screen have been around since The Twilight Zone's Talky Tina, and even longer if you count ventriloquist dummies (e.g. The Dead of Night, 1945). And while devilish dolls have never been as ubiquitous as ghosts, zombies, or vampires, they've enjoyed a revival since the Annabelle series.

Evil Little Things's wraparound features the usual little boy (Mason Wells) who can't sleep at night because he thinks there are monsters under his bed. His mother (L.A. Winters) takes him to a toy store to buy a doll for protection. A quirky toymaker (nicely played by Geoff McKnight) then tells them about the tale behind two dolls.

"Blood for Gold" is the first, and weaker, of the two tales. A mother, Jess (Hannah Fierman), battles a leprechaun doll on Halloween night. When the doll attacks, wielding a knife, one recalls Trilogy of Terror. But this leprechaun is no Zuni fetish doll. He's less fierce and less frightening. Even so, he's properly creepy, and there are good moments, like when his face cracks and we see the creature beneath. His demise down the fireplace shaft recalls Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.



Although "Blood of Gold" is set during Halloween, no real attempt is made at creating a Halloween atmosphere, so why even mention the holiday? There are some plot contrivances. Jess's BFF is a sheriff (Courtney Hogan) who seems to have little to do other than hang out with Jess, or surf the web in her patrol car as she researches Jess's problems. She is also too quick to guess that Jess is in trouble during the doll attack.

On the whole, "Blood for Gold" is enjoyable if unexceptional, with decent (not great) acting.



"Be Careful What You Wish For" is the real gem in this film. Abby (Courtney Lakin) is young woman bearing facial and shoulder scars, the result of a fire. Director Matt Green cheats a bit, in that Abby's scars off to the side, so her face is still beautiful. But despite her beauty, Lakin does a great job conveying Abby's insecurities, loneliness, and romantic longings. Lakin has created a character who is sympathetic and vulnerable, without being pathetic or whiny.

Abby's evil doll, Patty, preys on Abby's insecurities. Patty too is scarred from the fire, and insists that they share a bond of ugliness. That Abby is unlovable because of her scars, and thus only she, Patty, can love her.

An especially nice touch is when Abby buys a beautiful new doll -- which she names Abby -- to treasure and love. This shows that Abby has no jealousy of others' beauty (she realized the doll is not her), while simultaneously projecting her longings onto her new doll. But Patty scars the Abby doll too.



Abby eventually goes to a genre convention and reconnects with Jeremy (Jonathan Horne), a former beau. To Abby's surprise and delight, Jeremy still loves her. Their emerging romance is well handled, their chemistry believable. As someone who's been to many genre conventions, I especially liked the setting. Despite the film's low-budget, and thus scant crowds, the convention milieu felt authentic.

There's a lot of symbolism and psychology that can be read into "Be Careful What You Wish For." Seasoned horror fans will wonder whether Patty is really alive, or is Abby the real villain, lashing out through Patty? But it soon becomes apparent that, yes, Patty really is alive and evil. There's an especially neat shock when Jeremy brushes past Patty, and we see that Patty's head has suddenly turned.



Evil Little Things's low-budget is evident at times. Streets are usually nearly empty. No trick-or-treaters in "Blood for Gold." No crowds at the convention (cleverly hidden by a tight frame). But the stories and characters are engaging enough so that we can easily suspend our disbelief.

The production values in Evil Little Things are quite good. Nice sound and cinematography. Most of the actors do a decent job, with Courtney Lakin the real standout. Her character is what makes this a memorable film.

Even better, "Be Careful What You Wish For" pulls no punches. It ends on a savagely dark note. Not entirely original, but surprising nonetheless. Horror fans should be most satisfied.


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