Generally speaking, it’s not the best of signs when, 30 seconds into the movie, I start going “Jesus take the wheel, isn’t that douchebag dead YET?”, and continue wondering aloud – at 30-second intervals like a back-seat toddler who has to pee – why that douchebag is not, in fact, dead yet. In this movie the douchebag in question is possibly the most obnoxious and odious teen character I’ve seen in about fifteen movies now, and sadly, there’s not much about Wicked Little Things that compensated me for having to tolerate her presence onscreen.
A new widow (Lori Heuring), left destitute by her husband’s death, is forced to move to a really unfortunate house in the Pennsylvania woods. She’s accompanied by her two daughters, Douchebag Chick (Scout Taylor-Compton) and the obligatory little kid whose complete lack of a self-preservation instinct will inevitably lead her to make friends with the monsters (Chloë Grace Moretz). The monsters in question are a group of undead grade-schoolers who, at some point in the unspecified past, were all killed in an explosion in the mine they worked in. Now they’re wandering around the hills seeking revenge on the kin of the mine’s owner.
Here’s the problem: kids in pancake makeup aren’t actually scary. I mean, clearly there are enough people with an irrational fear of children to support an entire horror movie cliche built around the lazy-ass idea that a child sharing screen space with splashing blood is automatically terrifying regardless of how it’s filmed, but I feel like they could at least have made a little more effort with the cinematography. Even though you know exactly who and what they are, the kids actually sort of manage to be scary when they’re not onscreen; when they are, you’re just like “Oh look, child actors in pancake makeup.”
There are places where Wicked Little Things is pretty effective, owing largely to the ability of the adult actors to convince us – in spite of all available evidence – that something frightening is going on. I commend it as well for its admirable lack of reliance on cheap jump scares (there were only a handful, well below par for this type of movie). The gore was about in proportion, what there was of it; it’s hard to count zombie kids eating raw pork as gore when it mostly just looks like they went too heavy on the barbecue sauce.
So what’s the verdict? Two stars. I’d have liked to give it more than that, but every time I started thinking it might be a three-star movie, my screen would suddenly be full of pancake-makeup-wearing moppets earworming me with that annoying “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go” song. I don’t know, maybe if you think kids are scary then you’ll find the movie scarier than I did. All in all, it wasn’t a bad movie; just not a terribly good one.
Also, Douchebag Chick. I might actually have been willing to tack on that third star if she’d died horribly, just as a reward, but unfortunately she lived through the movie.