Friday, October 19, 2012

Halloween Havoc: LITTLE DEVILS: THE BIRTH (1993)

New World Pictures certainly has a convoluted history.  Founded in 1970 by Gene and Roger Corman, the company was sold in 1983 to a group of investors. It was split into a whole bunch of sub-companies like New World International, New World Television and New World Video.  Anybody who was a horror fan in the 1980s knew their familiar logo that graced releases like THE STUFF (1985) and HELLRAISER (1987).  As quickly as the production company grew with features, it began to fall apart. By the time the 1990s rolled around, the company’s emphasis was more on television and less on features.  One of the last things they got rolling out via New World International as a feature was LITTLE DEVILS: THE BIRTH.  Just a few short years later, the company was gone.  Coincidence?

LITTLE DEVILS opens with Lionel (Wayne McNamara) going to a graveyard and scooping up some red goop from a pit inside a mausoleum. Seems Lionel is an amateur scientist and has been using this stuff to create the titular creatures. Why? We never know except that he says it took control of his brain. Back at his apartment he is saved from a violent loan shark by porn writer/fellow tenant Ed Reid (Marc Price), who forgoes his own royalty check to save Lionel one of his fingers. Yeah, the violent mobster type takes a second party endorsed check.  That’ll let you know what kind of film we’re dealing with here.  Anyway, these little hellions are loose within the apartment building and it causes all kinds of trouble for Ed, potential girlfriend Lynn (Nancy Valen), and friend Doc Clapton (Russ Tamblyn).  Of course, these little red devils are the least horrific thing Ed has to deal with as he must also avoid the advances of his horny, clean carpet obsessed landlady (Stella Stevens).

You know you are in trouble when the film you are watching features Skippy from FAMILY TIES as the hero and Stella Stevens providing most of the film’s T&A.  LITTLE DEVILS is obviously aping the GREMLINS (1984) mold, but it actually appears to be cashing in more on Charles Band’s successful direct-to-video feature SUBSPECIES (1991).  In fact, the monsters in this are dead ringers for the little creatures in that Ted Nicolaou flick, except they look like they are on steroids.

Don’t expect to get the narrative complexity of a Full Moon feature here though. Screenwriter-producer Elliot Stein can’t even be bothered to come up with an explanation as to what this bubbling red goo is.  I’m not kidding – Lionel is straight up asked what it is at one point and responds, “I have no idea.”  You couldn’t take 10 seconds to add a line of dialogue like “I stumbled upon a portal to hell” or something?  Then again, this writer’s idea of a proper deus ex machina is having the heroes find out that a citrus soda will cause the tiny monsters to melt.  No joke, the writer character hero has a sign on his wall that says, “It’s better to write crap than to shovel it.”  I can’t make this stuff up.

Matching Stein’s lack of ambition is director George Pavlou.   That name should ring a bell with horror fans as he did the world’s first Clive Barker adaptations in the 1980s with TRANSMUTATIONS (1985) and RAWHEAD REX (1986).  Those two films actually looked like real movies with (gasp!) occasional bits of atmosphere, so it is surprising to see such a sad display from Pavlou in his third feature.  Just check out the tomb set in the finale, which is clearly painted Styrofoam that is brightly lit as to bring out ever facet of its cheapness. If you can’t properly film a set, you know he isn’t going to get the FX right either.  The dolls used for the devils are decent looking, but never shot with any intention of making them look like anything other than FX props being pushed around on rods.  I guess I should be happy he did show them melting into piles of glop.  Every directorial miscue he could make here, he does. Love interest Lynn turns out to be a stripper, yet we never see her nude during her routine. Even more offensive, he never shows any of her co-workers strip down either.  A far cry from the man who once had a topless girl ripped from a camper van in RAWHEAD REX. Just like New World, Pavlou disappeared off the face of the Earth, well, the movie making scene after this.

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