CHILLING REVIEWS: Little Demon – ‘First Blood’ and ‘Possession Obsession’

Little Demon is FX Networks’ newest animated horror-comedy series coming to FXX and Hulu. With permission from FX Networks, I was given the opportunity to see the first three episodes of the series premiere season. This title is quite an experiment with some of the most renowned actors ever and a talented roster of crew members.

According to FX Networks, here is the synopsis for Little Demon.

13 years after being impregnated by Satan, a reluctant mother, Laura, and her Antichrist daughter, Chrissy, attempt to live an ordinary life in Delaware, but are constantly thwarted by monstrous forces, including Satan, who yearns for custody of his daughter’s soul.

The series pilot is titled, “First Blood”. It is written by series creators Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla and is directed by Ben Bjelajac (BoJack Horseman) and Jack Shih (South Park). The series premiere’s second episode is titled, “Possession Obsession”. It is also written by Fowler, Kirschner, and Valla and directed by Samantha Arnett (Disenchantment).

In this article, I will be discussing the Little Demon series premiere. Minor spoilers ahead. Please read at your own discretion.

Laura (voiced by Aubrey Plaza) in Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla's FX animated horror comedy series, ‘Little Demon’ series pilot—”First Blood”. Credits to FXX.

Discussion

FX’s Little Demon is a well-written animated horror comedy that does an interesting job at placing a coming-of-age tale in a narrative centered on horror while mindfully steering clear of cliches, especially horror cliches. 

From the animation aspect, we have respectable artists who deserve way more credit than we can give. The closing credits brought up some familiar names: Brendan Regulinski, Bea Ritter, and Sammy Savos, a few alumni from J.G. Quintel’s animated adult HBO Max sitcom, Close Enough–just one of many streaming titles recently purged from the streaming platform. It was a delight to see that these people are working on this project alongside other hard-working individuals in the industry. (You can see their names in the Crew section below.)

The writers’ room did something smart with this series by making the protagonist a female character than a male one. They don’t spare you the dragging introduction and instead push you into all the chaos. A teenage girl, Christina “Chrissy” (Lucy DeVito), gets her period in school, which is reminiscent of the horror film, Carrie, as well as the coming-of-age film, Turning Red. Not often do I see that depicted in film and television media, so it’s meritable of the writers to showcase that from the get-go.

Pictured from left to right: Christina "Chrissy" (voiced by Lucy DeVito), Laura (voiced by Aubrey Plaza), and Satan (voiced by Danny DeVito) in Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla's FX animated horror comedy series, ‘Little Demon’ series pilot—”First Blood”. Credits to FXX.

In this same scene, we see Chrissy discover her self–a self that is beyond human, a self that opens a doorway to a new world. To lend the character a proper Gen-Z middle school environment, the writers make use of childish language, such as “peepee poopoo”, which they attempt to make this generation’s new “Got Milk?” I particularly do not like this part of the writing aspect because it can be regarded as outdated humor, but it does make sense given the backdrop for someone in the seventh grade. 

The coming-of-age element is not to be taken too seriously, however, as Chrissy and her mother, Laura (Aubrey Plaza), state that they are dealing with only “some glimmer of a normal childhood”, with Chrissy later referring to the family dynamic as “like The Incredibles…but gross”. 

Additionally, Romer and Zarcone’s musical composition in Little Demon is remarkable. The pilot’s two closing scenes, along with the smooth transition in between, have chilling supernatural instrumentals that bring us back to haunted house films, and I quite like how the team put that together. 

I also appreciate Gilbert and Mikus’s music supervision, including the pilot’s closing song, “Be Thankful You’re You” by Fern Jones. Its lyrics pretty much convey everything you need to know about the series–despite everything that it will have to offer, it suggests that we all have a consciousness, something essential to our sense of humanity.

The Gothic

As it should be, Little Demon is a Gothic tale of society, and there are some major themes from the movement to be noted. In his 2004 critical text, American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction, Allan Lloyd-Smith cites rationalism as a belief that “remove[s] all values from moral and social systems, leading to catastrophes on the political level, and on the personal level” (66). 

The series’ second episode involves possession and how supernatural entities taking over a human vessel could be a concern for body politics. This specific context makes an insightful point–in supernatural horror, there never really is consent to enter physical life forms, which the show manages to pinpoint this oft-unsaid facet of possession and give it the spotlight. While the episode does poke fun at the matter, the result of it illustrates the moral dilemma that is to be had.

Of course, there is something notably clever in how the character’s junior high school–whose motto is “We’re not racist anymore!”–is established around the same time period that the house centipede was given its scientific name, Scutigera coleoptrata. The centipede is an insectivore, which means it kills and eats other arthropods in its phylum class, much in the same way that Western racism is destructive to humankind. Surely, the writers made that to be very subtle that, on the surface, it doesn’t seem to be anything of importance… but it could be.

The show also deals with Darwinism and the abhuman in an interesting manner. Lloyd-Smith sees this Gothic theme as “a more directly monstrous and visceral horror … a new conception of the connections between the human and the animal realms, present consciousness and archaic instincts … intensifying anxiety about the body and about the role of genetic inheritance” (109-110). 

In Little Demon, Chrissy has to deal with her discovery of being the Devil’s daughter and what that means about the choices she makes. We also get to see animated body horror at one point, with Laura transporting herself from the human realm to the metaphysical realm. What came first: the chicken or the goblin? When you see this scene, you will know exactly what I am referring to.

The Citizens of Middletown

Fowler, Kirschner, and Valla’s series also gives the townsfolks personality rather than resorting to setting them to the “non-playable character” status. In “First Blood”, we see a middle-class office worker gives his money to what he thinks is the end of days, while a redneck shoots his sniper rifle at the portal to the other side. If anything, this is hilarious as opposed to what we get in the following episode. 

In “Possession Obsession, Chrissy learns the extent of what she is and believes she could use her gifts for good. She helps an old woman traverse a crosswalk, she has a businessman give all his clothing to a homeless man, she prevents a suicide, etc. However, her decision to intervene in everyone’s lives comes at a cost. On one hand, it can be seen as amusing, but on the other hand, there is a complexity that must be considered: you just cannot tamper with the cogs of the machine without knowing each and every one of their function. This adds a layer of riskiness to the series, especially due to the fact that Chrissy is a teenager.

Pictured from left to right: Satan (voiced by Danny DeVito) and Asmodeus (voiced by Sam Richardson) in Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla's FX animated horror comedy series, ‘Little Demon’ Season 1Episode 2—”Possession Obsession”. Credits to FXX.

Performances and Character Developments

Cordero is of Filipino descent, which is always nice to discover since I am Filipino as well. As recurring characters, Darlene and Bennigan can be funny here and there with their use of timing. Coming from HBO Max’s Minx, we have Parham as the neighbor who drones in conversation. Cordero’s Bennigan does this too, but as a teenage character, he can be awkward and naive with the way he acts. I would love to see what these two have to contribute to the future of the series. They do have potential as secondary characters, and I hope the writers get to develop them more as the show progresses.

Next, we have Plaza, who is unrelenting as Laura, a Jewish woman who ripped and tatted around her body. She is my favorite character, not only because the writers showcase her as a free spirit, but also because she has the best fight scenes in Little Demon’s first three episodes alone. There are a lot of things that she does in the show that cannot be done in live-action, and nudity is just the tip of the iceberg… In fact, her appearance in the pilot (see the photo in the Introduction of this article) is interesting if you think of “First Blood” as a reference to Sylvester Stallone’s character, Rambo. Plaza is good at playing dark yet moral. We’ve seen this with Monsters University, 2019’s Child’s Play, and Legion, so her performance presents no issue.

Having come from Batman Returns, Danny DeVito embodies Evil with a capital “E”, so there is no need to bring up evidence as to whether who makes a good–or should we say bad–Satan. The character does have ulterior motives for reconnecting with his daughter, and it’s only a matter of time before the strings put on a more visible look. At one point, we see him in the form of a cricket, and I can only think of Jiminy from the Pinocchio stories. Satan does have some humanity because of Chrissy’s being around, but I don’t think he sees that as a challenge. 

Lastly, we have Chrissy, who can be described in one peer’s philosophical question: “What is middle school but Sisyphus pretending to love the boulder?” Lucy DeVito does a lovely job at portraying a young and susceptible character who endures various changes. The second episode is fantastic at demonstrating the flaws of such changes and that not every metamorphosis is beneficial to her being. She means well, but unfortunately, she is reckless and requires more learning.

Christina "Chrissy" (voiced by Lucy DeVito) in Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla's FX animated horror comedy series, ‘Little Demon’ Season 1Episode 2—”Possession Obsession”. Credits to FXX.

Final Thoughts on Little Demon

Little Demon shows promise as an animated horror comedy series. While What We Do in the Shadows is already FX Networks’ groundbreaking horror-comedy series, Fowler, Kirschner, and Valla’s series is capable of doing just a little more as an animated television program, leaping over the boundaries of television restrictions. Nothing is censored in what I have seen thus far, and I feel it can go all-out in terms of being a cross-genre narrative.

In this season, we will encounter the voices of Mel Brooks, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Will Jackson Harper, Pamela Adlon, Rhea Perlman, Shangela, Patrick Wilson, Dave Bautista, June Diane Raphael, Toks Olagundoye, Lamorne Morris, and Sam Richardson, so we will definitely have something to anticipate in this first season alone.

It’s nice to see Aubrey Plaza help bring this series to fruition with her production company, Evil Hag Productions, and I would like to see what else they can do with books, film, and television. ShadowMachine helped produce Robot Chicken, BoJack Horseman, and Tuca & Bertie, as well as films such as Booksmart and Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson’s Pinocchio. Atomic Cartoons provided additional storyboards for Courage the Cowardly Dog from 1999 to 2002. Therefore, I believe it’s safe to say that Little Demon is in great hands.

The Crew of Little Demon

Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla are the creators of Little Demon.

Jake DeVito, Danny DeVito, Lucy DeVito, Fowler, Kirschner, Valla, Plaza, Karey Dornetto, Corey Campodonico & Alex Bulkley (ShadowMachine) serve as the executive producers. Steve Levy and Monica Mitchell serve as the producers. Charley Beil serves as the co-producer.

Ruth Lambert & Robert McGee are the casting directors of the series.

Dan Romer (Station Eleven) and John Zarcone compose the music. Bruce Gilbert (Everything Everywhere All at Once) and Lauren Marie Mikus (Green Room, Everything Everywhere All at Once) are the music supervisors. Lodge Worster (Station Eleven) is the music editor.

Mike Api serves as the editor, with Charles Jones being a co-editor for the pilot. Brian Fitzgerald as the assistant editor. Miles Woods serves as the story editor for the second episode, with Brian Prodi Flynn (Wayward Pines, The Walking Dead) as a staff writer.

Paula Spence (The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Regular Show, Close Enough) serves as the art director and is assisted by Justin Connolly (Robot Chicken). 

Kate Brusk, Régis Camargo, and Brendan Regulinski are the storyboard artists for the pilot, with Abe Audish, Kat Chan, Jesse Dean, George Kaprielian (Mad), Sarah Oleksyk (Regular Show), Sammy Savos, Liza Singer (Harley Quinn, Disenchantment), Kaitrin Snodgrass, Andy Thom (Dragon Tales, Generator Rex), Liam Vickers, Alycia White, and Brandon Williams (Star Trek: Lower Decks) providing additional storyboards. 

Oleksyk, Bea Ritter, and Aki Yun (Star Trek: Lower Decks) are the storyboard artists for the second episode, with Marissa Bernstel (The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Batman: The Enemy Within, Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Brusk, Steve Olson, and Brandon Williams providing additional boards. 

Johnell Hipol, Isabelle Lago, Adriel Loza, and Khang Nguyen serve as the character designers, with April Apodaca and David Cardenas as character designers for the pilot.

The Cast of Little Demon

Lucy DeVito voices Little Demon’s title character, Chrissy. Aubrey Plaza and Danny DeVito voice Laura and Satan, Chrissy’s respective parents.

Lennon Parham guest stars as Darlene, Laura and Chrissy’s neighbor. Eugene Cordero (Loki, HBO Max’s Close Enough) voices Bennigan, Chrissy’s best friend. Michael Shannon portrays an “Unshaven Man”.

Sam Richardson guest stars as a character named Asmodeus in the second episode.

Seth Kirschner voices Erwin, Laura’s pet creature. Mel Forrest, Darcy Fowler, Phil LaMarr, Charlie McWade, Laci Mosley, Kieran Valla, Juan Villa, and Annie Warden also appear in voice roles.

Ali Ahn, Kari Wahlgren, and Annie Worden co-star in the pilot, while Keith Powell appears in the second episode.

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John Tangalin

https://castleofchills.com/tag/john-tangalin/

John Tangalin (he/him) is a collector of trade paperback graphic novels and a learner of theory. In the mid-2000s, the 1990 It miniseries, the original Toxic Avenger, and Final Destination got him into horror, with Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Scream later solidifying this in his teenage years. While attending graduate school at the University of Guam, he is studying posthumanism in technology such as masks and digital devices.

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