I had never heard of this movie until a few months ago when someone posted the news of Shivers Entertainment’s upcoming release in a Facebook group. Given the concept and two of the actors involved I was genuinely surprised this movie had totally stayed off my radar since now. I even checked Fangoria’s index and it was never covered or even reviewed in their pages at all. And of all the horror magazines I used to collect back in the day I don’t ever recall them covering it either.
What initially grabbed my attention was how Shivers Entertainment highlighted the fact it was directed by George Pavlou, the director of Rawhead Rex (1986)! I loved that movie! He also directed another Clive Barker creation, Transmutations (1985, aka Underworld). That film I’ve been aware of since it’s coverage in Fangoria, but still have yet to see.
Found the trailer for Little Devils on YouTube and it seemed to hit all the right notes in me making me want to review it, so, here we are . . . I can tell you with total certainty, though, if I had seen this back when it first came out I wouldn’t have cared for it, but as I’ve mentioned in a couple of other reviews lately the greater the nostalgia factor is with certain movies I may have never liked, or were indifferent to, have made me fans of them in my adulthood, and you can now add Little Devils to that growing list.
It’s marketed on IMDB, and on the back of the DVD, as being a horror comedy. I wouldn’t necessarily refer to as a “comedy,” something more akin to a light-hearted scare flick. In fact the way the opening credits came up it reminded me of, perhaps, a movie length version of a Monsters (1988-1990) or a Tales from the Darkside (1983-1988) episode, which to me is a good thing, since I’m a fan of both of those shows. The production value is kind of similar too. It also reminded me of anything Charles Band’s Empire Pictures would have made back in the heyday. Gremlins (1984) kicked of the “little monster” craze, and since then we have been graced with the Ghoulies and Critters franchise, Band’s own Puppetmaster series of films, which is still ongoing, if you can believe it, as well as one-offs like Troll (1986), Munchies (1987), Hobgoblins (1988), Elves (1989) and The Gate (1987). Yes, I’m aware there’s a Troll 2 (1990), but I loathe that movie so much which is why this is as far as I go in acknowledging it’s “existence.”
Little Devils is about sentient mud, basically; this young scientist named Lionel (Wayne McNamara) sneaks into a cemetery and retrieves this substance from a bubbling pool inside a crypt. He then goes back to his apartment and uses the substance like clay and molds eight little creatures from it. It helps that he has a vat of the mud right there in the apartment, a plot point which will get fleshed out in the final moments of the film. At one point the “clay” gets inside him and possesses him, but the anecdote for it is soda, this particular kind due to its carbonation. Pour the stuff on the clay and it dissolves like it’s been doused with acid. Shove it down a possessed person’s throat and you can easily get that person UN-possessed.
All but two of the film’s cast revolves around this boarding house Lionel lives in, and ninety-percent of the action takes place in it as well. Landlady Clara Madison (Stella Stevens) runs the place. She’s a fanatic about keeping her floors and carpets clean and has it in for Lionel because he’s always traipsing dirt all over the place from his excursions into that cemetery. Marc Price is the film’s hero and he’ll always be cemented in my memory as Skippy from Family Ties (1982-1989) and bullied Eddie Weinbauer who resurrects Satan worshipping rocker Sammi Curr in the horror flick Trick or Treat (1986). Here he’s playing writer, Ed Reid, who writes trashy sex novels to make ends meet. The next name actor I recognized is the guy playing his friend, Doc Clapton (that’s not just a nickname, he’s an actual doctor), Russ “War Of The Gargantuas” Tamblyn! Yup, that’s the one movie I always associate him with!
Clapton wants Eric to quit writing trash and write that damn novel he’s always wanted to and he thinks he’s got the perfect way to do it. He introduces Eric to a group of homeless people he’s been caring for and Eric agrees there’s a novel in there somewhere. This is also how he meets the movie’s heroine and his love interest, Lynn (Nancy Valen). She surprises him later on by revealing she’s a stripper. She also helps Doc care for those homeless people. By the way Lionel’s “clay puppets” slaughter all those homeless people later in the movie.
Speaking of the “clay puppets,” each one has a weapon that ranges from a canister worn as a backpack that squirts acid, a miniature flame thrower, a miniature machine gun and one that shoots these nasty darts that tend to kill if they nail you in the noggin. Bob Keen’s Image Animation (Hellraiser, Hellbound, Nightbreed, Proteus, The Unholy) created the critters and did the effects! While their design is nothing to write home about their animatronic execution especially in the hands and the close-ups of them walking is fun to marvel at. This all culminates in poor Doc being attacked and stumbling into the vat of bubbling mud Lionel keeps in his apartment. Naturally we think him dead, but as I said the mud is alive and he returns in a new form. Again, not the best design I’ve ever seen, but it fits with the Monsters/Tales From The Darkside vibe I mentioned. Don’t worry, none of the main characters end up dead, not even Doc. After a confrontation with him back in the crypt where the mud originated, Eric manages to rid him of his possession by spraying him with a shitload of that soda. Stay with the end credits because the movie continues as they roll by with Ed, Lynn and Doc bantering away at the strip club where Lynn works . For a movie about little killer critters it has a surprising number of character scenes, but I dug it.
Little Devils only had a very limited release on video in Canada through Malofilm Video, which is most likely why I’ve never heard of it. Well, all that changes now, for you can buy this DVD exclusively from Canadian distributor, Shivers Entertainment. The limited edition VHS they had in stock is now currently sold out, but the DVD is still available!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1.33:1 full frame—English Dolby Digital Stereo—No subs
The transfer is basically a copy of the Malofilm Video VHS, so, if you plan on watching this on a tube TV, it’s going to look great, but analog by way of digital television, not so much. It’s watchable, though, just check out Shivers’ trailer I linked in the article. Believe me, if I didn’t think this was watchable, you wouldn’t be reading this review. I wouldn’t mind seeing some kind of “remastering” of this flick some day either .
Extras included . . .
- Tis Better To Write Crap Than Shovel It: Audio Interview With Writer/Producer Elliot Stein (11:44)
- Rare Stills Gallery (21 photos)
Shivers has added a couple of decent extras. They managed to score an audio interview with the writer and producer, Elliot Stein, who also contributed the photos found in the Stills Gallery that has some good behind-the-scenes shots of the effects and make-up. The interview, however, would be the best extra since he provides a lot information on what went wrong with the movie. It was supposed to an R-rated horror flick, but the end result was more lighthearted PG. He ends his talk revealing he’s reworking the original script into a kind of prequel, which he wants to eventually film!