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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Satan’s Little Helper – What’s Behind the Mask?

It’s time again for monster movies in October. To be honest, I watch monster and horror movies all year, but in October I try to write a little bit about them.

The movie Satan’s Little Helper (2004) is, unlike yesterday’s feature, a well crafted low budget horror-comedy film.  And though I’m not often scared by horror films, Satan’s Little Helper has moments of real fear alongside laughs. It is a black humored parody of slasher films like John Carpenter’s Halloween and its many knock-offs.

The movie (written and directed by Jeff Lieberman) takes place on Halloween as everyone is putting on their costumes, decorating their porches and going house to house for candy.  Nine year old Dougie Whooly is eager to go trick or treating with his sister, who is coming home from college.  He is dressed as Satan – his favorite character from his favorite video game, “Satan’s Little Helper.”  While out and about he sees a costumed figure that he takes for Satan, and asks to be Satan’s helper. 

The figure is not Satan – at least not a satan of the supernatural, cloven hoofed variety.  He’s a vicious killer that never speaks and never removes his mask (and it’s only assumed that it’s “he”.)  But Dougie is convinced.  It’s the mask that convinces him, the mask and his own expectations. Everyone who sees the masked figure sees the person they expect to be under the mask.  Dougie’s sister believes the masked figure to be her boyfriend, Alex.  The people at the Halloween party think that it’s Dougie’s father… 

The horror of the movie is in the fact that the audience knows (slightly) more than the characters of the film and we become anxious for them.  We know the danger that they are in, and we are unable to warn them. There aren’t a lot of special effects in this movie, a few rubber masks and some fake blood.  But sometimes less is more.  It’s Dougie’s unrestrained joy that carries the film along, making it both a delightful brutal ride, and a horrifying trip. 

My one complaint about the movie is that even at 96 minutes it starts to feel a little long, particularly in the last half hour or so.  Still, it’s a provocative little film.

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