A young woman’s psychologist turns out to be the Devil and makes the woman an offer she can’t refuse. Murder an innocent person and her long deceased daughter will be returned to her, from Hell.
Lucifer. Beelzebub. Old Scratch. Regardless of the moniker uttered, everyone knows the Devil. The original bad guy, Satan not only spans ages of literature, art and religious dogma, but has also made fodder of antagonists in every genre of film imaginable. He’s appeared as the heavy in comedies (Peter Cook in “Bedazzled” or the gay ballad-crooner of “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut”) and even the oddball children’s flick (“The Adventures of Mark Twain”) or two. Where he is most cinematically prevalent, however, is within the macabre realm of horror and suspense. Here is where he shines the brightest.
The dark lord turns up once again in “My Little Demon,” a micro-budgeted thriller from director Steven James Creazzo, who also wrote and co-produced with Meghan Gonyo. Presented predominately in the format of a filmed stage treatment, “Demon” begins with a well known premise of temptation and damnation courtesy of you-know-who, but introduces its own fresh take. To a minimal degree, it delivers upon its high ambitions. Unfortunately, the entire affair is mired down by repetitive and lukewarm dialogue, often indefinitely circling both pace and plot, taking its time before arriving at either. I believe the words “Get on with it!” escaped my lips in my outside (i.e. drunk) voice on multiple occasions.
Evie (Diana Cherkas) has been seeing psychologist Rebecca (Ali Stover) following a tragic car accident that took her daughter Lucy’s life whilst leaving her physically unscathed. Evie, who was driving at the time of the tragedy, refuses to speak of the incident, choosing instead to live in her self-imposed world of denial. After some tough talk from Rebecca, she finally opens up about that day, admitting guilt and confessing that she was on her cell phone, not watching the road at the time of the wreck. Rebecca then asks her what she would do to get her daughter back. Evie makes the mistake of replying “Anything . . . “
Once Rebecca removes her “She’s All That” nerd girl glasses, all bets are off. She plainly informs Evie she is indeed the Devil, and that Lucy’s soul resides in a limbo reserved for children who have died through the fault of others. She can bring the lost daughter back, but it comes with a price. As the two barter and squabble like they’re debating over the cost of a used car, both Rebecca’s and Evie’s demands waver erratically in a seemingly endless progression of blather. At first, Rebecca wants Evie to kill herself, then she wants her to murder pretty assistant Chloe (Caitlin Gold), then she wants her soul. The only thing escaping my lips at this point was a stream of profanity, some of which I think I invented on the spot in the sort of guttural language twins teach each other.
Of the two leads, Stover does a solid job of reaching beyond the often trite material. Of course, I have yet to witness an actor who didn’t have a hoot portraying Satan, and she is no exception. Regardless of the medium, the Devil always gets the best lines. She’s no DeNiro from “Angel Heart” nor even Bergin from “Highway to Hell,” but she brings a playfully malevolent sultriness that Elizabeth Hurley failed in attempting. Cherkas on the other hand, is left a weepy sad sack for much of the run time, and she clearly doesn’t have the chops to muscle the many draggier moments above tedium. The scene in which she is granted a quick visit with Lucy in kiddie purgatory (resembling a city park minus the homeless and crack dealers) is straight out of a Lifetime Original. She does spark to action once her Evie begins to figure out Rebecca’s true intentions and finally grows a pair, which is a belated outstanding moment between the two.
The few times in which a pissed-off Rebecca shows her true colors (we think) are handled impressively given the financial restraints. Though only granted glimpses of the hideous horned monster she transforms into, the unique filming of these instances makes them surreal and legitimately frightening. It brings a nice little jolt to a picture that could have used a whole lot more of them.
The twist, which brought to mind a beloved film classic (and my buddy Timmy’s all-time favorite) that I won’t mention so as not to spoil it for everyone but Timmy, is a clever idea that really only half works. The build to it is outstanding and tense, and it’s just out of left field enough that it takes another minute before the “Ah, now I get it” moment. That’s precisely when “Demon” once again falls apart at the seams. This satisfying reveal segue ways into a final sequence that is jaw-droppingly banal, though to its credit keeping in with the theme previously introduced. Nevertheless, it was the easiest, most audience-friendly, made-for-television road for the film makers to have taken, and an unforgivable cop-out in my opinion.
I have the utmost confidence that “My Little Demon” would have made a terrific short film, all the chatty fat trimmed and hopefully ditching that ridiculous ending. I’m still angry typing about it right now. As it stands, it’s merely an interesting though pedestrian first effort, and I’d like to see what Creazzo and company could bring to the table with a little more cash to spend on their inventive low-tech effects. Like Fincher’s “Alien 3,” we’ll chalk this one up to an amiable rookie mistake.
My Little Demon (2012)