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Script Review: LITTLE DEMONS

by Darwin Mayflower


(09/11/00) NOTE: The screenplays we review are often in development and may experience many rewrites, some could end up being completely different than what is reviewed here. It is our hope that our reviews generate more interest in the film. Thank you.

You may not know this name. But youre probably a big fan of Danny Elfmans. He has as much to do with the success of Tim Burton as the wild-haired director does. He supplies that creepy, eerie, even somewhat playfully whimsical music you hear behind the disturbing Burtonian images.

About five years ago Danny (who also wrote the theme to THE SIMPSONS) set up a musical at Disney, which he planned to write and direct.

It was named LITTLE DEMONS and he cut a demo of the songs hed written.

As of today the project is shut down and I dont know where it is in its development. But I hope it picks back up soon. Im a sucker for a good musical (especially fantastical fare like THE WIZARD OF OZ) and Danny is just the right person to inspire us anew.

LITTLE DEMONS is an extremely dark script, set in 1921, about three young kids (Cynthia, Jonathan and Bradley) who perform in a traveling carnival show. To appease their saintly dead mother, they lure young women into their crazy uncles trailer, so that he can kill them and they can snip a locket of their hair.

They put the lockets in a makeshift altar and believe that the souls of the girls become "helpers" (maids) to their dead mother in heaven. Cynthia, the ringleader, communicates with the mother and determines the course their lives will take.

The kids run into trouble when the wheel pops off their wagon and two policemen approach to help. Their uncle is inside the wagon murdering a young woman (the kids perform a song to cover the womans cries for help). The kids, with instantaneous self-preservation skills, claim the uncle is abusive and forced them -- with threats of eating their livers -- to deliver to him young pretty women to replace his lost Lenore (hes obsessed with Poe). When the uncle is arrested someone must step up and take responsibility for the children. No one will...except a rich lady named Eleanor Witherton, who saw them perform and looks upon them as lost children condemned by their pitiable life.

Eleanors fianc´┐Ż Lionel Richards, a lecturer on modern biology and evolutionary science, isnt blinded by the Good-Samaritan tragic love Eleanor is and sees through to the childrens black hearts.

It comes down to a war between three conniving, artful little kids and one frazzled scientist. Eleanor kicks Lionel out when he accuses the kids of being evil. The kids begin to bump off pretty teenage girls with ever-increasing speed and glee to please old mother dear, so shell have new maids in heaven.

And for our big finale: the kids are bothered by a certain girl at school they intend to kill. She just happens to be Lionels niece.

Lionel and the kids try to outfox each other as the oblivious Eleanor sings about what angels they are and how happy the whole bunch could be together (once Lionel heals from a little-demon-induced car crash and fakes bright ebullience, inveigling his way back in).

Ive spent a good time talking plot, but the important thing is the music (which Ive heard and not just read). As usual Elfman works his magic, creating fabulous little ditties that are stygian and jocose and also, for a change, some that are delicate and tender and a bit elegiac.

My favorite tunes -- two sung by the kids in true Elfman macabre nuttiness -- are "The Cat is Dead" (which the kids sing to a stunned crowd of Eleanors friends) and "The Come-Along Song" (which is how they seduce the young women into entering their uncles deadly trailer).

The script is shockingly violent and Elfman never winks at us in any way to say this is comedy and just a little wicked fun about a couple of precocious kids who respect their mother in a dangerous way and take care of enemies with the brutal efficiency of the CIA.

It reads more like THE VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED than HEATHERS, in other words.

Those movies were on my mind when reading this. Along with THE ADAMS FAMILY. THE BAD SEED. Burtons movies. And even Woody Allens SHADOWS AND FOG.

I really wish Elfman had made it more of a comedy. You can keep the violence -- you can keep the cold-blooded, devious kids -- but if we were laughing (morbidly, like in HEATHERS) while shielding our eyes from the blood it would all make a lot more sense.

Let Daniel Waters rewrite it and we would have something brilliant. As it is the script is satisfying to me, as a musical-watcher, and presents an interesting, unique screenplay-reading experience. The movie has not been made. But the music in it has been recorded. For once theres a small level of gratification -- beyond the actual words -- from a script that will probably never hit the screens.

-- Darwin Mayflower.

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