There is only one thing in this world I like more than a Jaws rip-off: a Gremlins rip-off! From the cream of the crop (Critters) to the bottom of the barrel (Munchies), no matter how garbage a Gremlins rip is, I can’t help but have a good time. The needlessly lengthily titled Little Devils: The Birth is Canada’s contribution to the sub-genre.
LITTLE DEVILS: THE BIRTH
Canada, 1993, George Pavlou
Through Doc, Ed meets Lynn (Nancy Valen), a super hot stripper lady who doesn’t take off her clothes when she strips. I can only assume Doc came to know Lynn through his sad strip club addiction, and her lack of nudity appealed to his sexless leanings. Ed’s existence isn’t all fun times with strip clubs, porno mags and weird homeless people. His vacuum-obsessed dominatrix landlady (Stella Stevens) is desperate to fuck him. Oh, and his upstairs neighbour, Lionel (Wayne McNamara), is moulding little devils out of living mud.
Lionel’s world is very much not peachy. It is, in fact, a total nightmare. His apartment is chaos. He’s addicted to lemon soda. A couple of scenery-chewing gangsters want to chop his fingers off because of a debt he owes them. At first, it’s unclear if Lionel is insane or an evil vengeance-fuelled geek. But once the tiny mud devils he’s made begin their murderous rampage, we learn who’s really in charge.
Even before the monster madness kicks in, I was quite taken with the cast and characters of Little Devils. No one is necessarily good here, but everyone puts in a stellar effort. Marc Price hams it up something fierce. Even when he’s dancing, very much out of time, like a goof in his apartment or pretending to orgasm as Lynn shakes his hand, he is quite likeable in the leading role. Wayne McNamara is equally fun as the sobbing, demented Lionel and gets the chance to turn into an unlikely protagonist in the film’s finale. Russ Tamblyn of Twin Peaks fame is as cheesy and lovable as ever, and Nancy Valen brings a rebellious 90s charm to the proceedings.
However, it’s the final half an hour where the goo and goofs are pummelled onto the screen. The little devils themselves are stiff and awkward with limited facial expressions, but they’re adorable as fuck. They each carry a different tiny weapon, which is a great touch. Though they lack the personality of a gremlin or even a munchie, their design is commendable and, more importantly, gooey.
Director George Pavlou, best known for Clive Barker-scribed Rawhead Raw (1986), keeps the action coming thick and fast. As the battle between humans and tiny monsters ensues, the music pounds out pulsating synth beats that would be more at home in an 80s film and blaring electronic guitars. People get set on fire. Monsters melt. All the action is captured competently and slickly. Never at any point did I feel bored.
I guess my tastes really don’t align to the users of IMDB. At this point in time, Little Devils sits at a shockingly low 2.3 — a rating it is utterly, utterly undeserving of. While this is no Gremlins, Little Devils is a blast from start to finish. I went in expecting dull garbage, instead I found scratching my head about its poor reputation. I would take Little Devils over Munchies or even Ghoulies (1984) any day. I would, however, not take it over Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College (1991), but who would? That’s the Citizen Kane of Gremlins cash-ins.
Sadly, Little Devils does not appear to be available on DVD outside of an obscure Brazilian release under the title of O Aniversário Do Demônio. Unless you can find a copy of this DVD, it’s VHS or nothing.