Satan's Little Helper (2004)
By: Dr. Obrero on June 6, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Imagine Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 96 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Starring: Katheryn Winnick, Alexander Brickel, Stephen Graham, Amanda Plummer, Joshua Annex
Screenplay: Jeff Lieberman
Music: David Horowitz
Tagline: Sometimes evil needs a helping hand.
Country: USA
Incredibly, director Jeff Lieberman hasn't helmed a genre picture in over twenty years, though in a sense, that absence has made the heart grow fonder. With the highly regarded Squirm and Blue Sunshine, plus his last feature, the terrific little backwoods slasher Just Before Dawn on his C.V., Lieberman has a high reputation in the field for a director with just three horror films behind him, especially considering the first two aren't worthy of their elevated reputation. Satan's Little Helper however does this reputation no harm at all.

Lieberman's darkly comic picture plays out as a contemporary satire on America's obsession with the jollification of Samhain, originally a time of bloodshed and celebration of mayhem – now, as Halloween little more than an excuse to send kids out into the streets in elaborate costumes on the scrounge for free candy. The savvy plot, replete with satiric undertones considering the effect of violent media on the easily influenced, has a naïve young boy, (Alexander Brickel), obsessed with the videogame of the title unwittingly become the pawn of a devil mask wearing serial killer with a fondness for decorating porches with mangled corpses (Joshua Annex), during All Hallows Eve. In the process, Brickel manages to endanger his highly-strung, stoner mom (Amanda Plummer), older sister (Katheryn Winnick) and her boyfriend Alex (Stephen Graham), who find themselves in a fight for their lives when the guano hits the air-conditioning as a result of the deluded boy's self appointed "Satan's Little Helper" role.

Lieberman manages with Satan's Little Helper what John Carpenter was aiming for with his seminal Halloween – to personify the embodiment of evil, the bogeyman, who simply turns up, kills, and continues killing for no apparent reason other than the hell of it, literally. Sadly for Carpenter, his achievement has been undermined by too many lame sequels featuring too much exposition. One can only hope this doesn't happen to Lieberman's picture. Cleverly integrating the murderous spree amidst a distracted, unaware suburbia, despite some resorts to narrative convention as the disappointingly mundane climax approaches, Lieberman has crafted a caustic, inventive and wittily subversive commentary on the pervasive influence of videogames on children, and how they possess the capacity to blur the distinction between fantasy and reality for the more impressionable, also, unlike so many contemporary productions who pull their punches in this area, Lieberman has no hesitation in placing children dead centre of all the mayhem.

Amanda Plummer, an actress I've always detested plays for eccentricity and delivers irritation in spades, but otherwise the acting is quite competent. Brickel brings an infectious enthusiasm to his role that is both hilarious and oddly chilling, whilst Katheryn Winnick makes a capable imperilled girl. However, a significant slice of the acting credit must go to Joshua Annex, whose superbly moderated, chillingly meticulous body language provides menace aplenty and convinces as just possibly the absolute personification of evil itself. Lieberman's assured, confident helming and slick script carry proceedings along at a decent click, much aided by smooth camerawork from dp Dejan Georgevich.

Imagine Entertainment's anamorphically enhanced R4 DVD presents the film in 16/9 widescreen, and is excellent. Colour is natural and fully saturated, with accurate fleshtones, vivid, warm colours and deep, solid blacks. Images are sharp and detailed, with excellent resolution. Contrast and shadow delineation are nicely rendered for a pleasing visual experience in this transfer.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack offers a solid aural experience with splendid clarity, delivering dynamic impact when required. Surround envelopment takes place across a wide soundstage presence and bass presence is perfectly judged. Dialogue sounds natural and exhibits good spatial integration.
Extra Features
Imagine Entertainment have really gone to town in the supplementals department – unfortunately before they left, they forgot to add any extra features to this DVD.
The Verdict
A snappy, clever little picture with more going on under its apparently slick surface than many viewers may pick up on. Not that that makes any difference, as Satan's Little Helper can be enjoyed on many levels: as an agreeably slick, low budget black comedy; as a sardonic look at America's Halloween obsession; and as a smart take on the concept of pure evil.

Highly recommended, and welcome back Jeff.
Movie Score
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