The anthology feature is a staple of horror, as is the conceit of the premise of creepy dolls that come to life to terrorize. In EVIL LITTLE THINGS, director Matt Green combines both genres in a fun little experiment that is perfect for younger viewers.
With a disturbingly, unfriendly performance by Zach Galligan (Gremlins), the film starts with a framing story where we meet young Jason, played by Mason Wells. Jason is afraid of monsters, specifically the kind that dwells under the bed. It is interesting to see Galligan play someone as unlikeable as Jason’s step-father.
To ease his fears, Jason’s mom (L.A. Winters) takes him to the perfect toy shop, where collected among the shelves are a world of retro-style play. Enter the unsettling proprietor, played by Geoff McKnight, with a perfect amount of old school mischief and macabre in his voice. He explains that these dolls have a rich and ancient history.
McKnight ushers us into two spooky tales that feature supernatural spirits trapped within pint-sized playthings. The first, “Blood For Gold”, features a Leprechaun doll that arrives in an unmarked package on the doorstep of Jess (Hannah Fierman). As if the odd delivery wasn’t unsettling enough, Jess and her family begin to experience strange phenomena around the house.
As the toy store owner finishes, the mom tries to leave, but Jason is attracted to another doll, which allows us to move into a new story.
In “Be Careful What You Wish For”, Abby (Courtney Lakin) is a survivor of a fire, escaping with burns that scar her looks. Self-conscious about how she looks, she interacts through cosplay at a local comic convention. At that convention, she reconnects with her high-school sweetheart. But Abby’s doll Patty becomes jealous and has plans to keep her attention for herself. We then return to Jason’s home, where Gallagan’s Step-Dad gets his just dessert with a satisfying payoff.
As a fan of anthology films, I admit that EVIL LITTLE THINGS will not set the bar any higher, but it certainly is a compelling 90 minutes of safer chills and thrills. This film harkens back to a more innocent time and audience. The performances are strong, and the script by Yasmin Bakhtiari and Nancy Knight allows for tension to build rather than startle.
The music by Angelo Panetta is effectively atmospheric and underscores the story. The design of the featured dolls is superb, both in their dormant stage and when they eventually creep to life.
I would recommend EVIL LITTLE THINGS as a primer for younger audiences to usher them into the scarier films such as Annabelle and Child’s Play. I respect the filmmaker for creating something that, while not graphic or horrific, is creepy. All in all, EVIL LITTLE THINGS is a rather fun, slightly spooky ride.