Danny DeVito Plays Satan in the Good and Gory Show ‘Little Demon’

DeVito, Aubrey Plaza, and Lucy DeVito star in the dark new FXX animated sitcom executive produced by Dan Harmon.
Little Demon Review

FXX’s new series Little Demon has a logline that sells the show better than anything else I could say about it: it’s an animated comedy about the teenaged antichrist that casts Danny DeVito and Aubrey Plaza as her parents. Yes, that means Danny DeVito plays Satan. DeVito’s daughter, Lucy DeVito, completes the absurd trifecta as Chrissy, the middle schooler who hits puberty in episode one and suddenly learns she’s a literal hellspawn. Little Demon doesn’t hit its stride in the three episodes available for review, but it is a bloody and enjoyable addition to the current adult animation boom nonetheless.

The show doesn’t waste very much time establishing its backstory, so I’ll keep it quick here too. Little Demon begins with Chrissy starting a new school with the support of her intense, seemingly overprotective mom Laura (Plaza). Soon, she gets her first period, and with it, ungodly supernatural powers that make her eyes go black and her enemies go bye-bye. It turns out her dad’s the literal devil, who so far wears the mask of a fairly easygoing – albeit nearly all-powerful – dad who yearns to connect with his daughter and ultimately gain custody of her soul.

In its first few episodes, Little Demon feels a bit like a mad scientist’s hybrid version of Big Mouth and What We Do in the Shadows, though it’s not as creatively developed as either quite yet. The show’s funniest bits so far involve enthusiastically revealed supernatural lore, like the rules of possession or of a gory supernatural game show Chrissy plays during a weekend with her dad. When Chrissy’s not indulging in gory adventures that bend our idea of what’s possible, she’s at school, navigating typical teen stuff and gaining street cred with her ability to shoot flames out of her hands.

The show is briskly paced and sometimes relentless, propelled forward by the intimidating force of Laura, who’s obviously danced with the devil before. It also makes the interesting choice to normalize its supernatural elements instead of giving Chrissy and Laura a secret double life to maintain. When she performs a gnarly ritual that leaves her body crumpled on the floor, for example, Laura’s chatty neighbor Darlene (Lennon Parham) hangs out with her lifeless form with all the nonchalance in the world, as if the pair are sharing gossip over a cup of coffee. This narrative decision makes for some of the show’s best humor, but it also makes it feel as if it could burn through its most entertaining material fairly fast.

Despite its rock-solid premise, the first few episodes of Little Demon are only moderately funny. But the show does have something that already sets it apart from contemporaries like Big Mouth and even Rick & Morty. Little Demon revels in horror and animated gore and turns the latter into a nasty art form. The show is decidedly adult. Its best gags are visual: creatively gross and detailed cartoons, including the monsters of hell and all other manners of interdimensional weirdness. It’s as much a horror series as it is a dark comedy, and it pays genre homage to classics like Hellraiser and The Exorcist in its first few episodes.

It’s too soon to tell if Little Demon will end up being too high a concept for its own good, but so far, it’s got promise. In addition to DeVito, Plaza, and Michael Shannon in a recurring role, the show also features a wildly impressive first-season slate of guest stars. Everyone from Mel Brooks to Pamela Adlon to DeVito’s former costar Arnold Schwarzenegger is set to drop by before the season ends. Little Demon has plenty going for it behind the camera, too. While it was co-created by Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla, it counts Dan Harmon among its executive producers — and certainly brings a Rick & Morty-like wild energy to its first few episodes.

Little Demon doesn’t arrive as fully formed as some of the other adult animation series that have bolstered the genre in recent years, but that might be by design. Laura’s unnerving backstory and her relationship with Satan are both largely unexplored territory, and while DeVito plays the devil with charming nonchalance, it’s clear the character is capable of way more than his friendly human suit would let us believe. Plus, there’s the fact that Chrissy has to grow up. Few on-screen metaphors are more resonant than that of adolescence as a special kind of hell on earth. If the series addresses Chrissy’s inevitable growing pains with the empathy it’s hinted at in its first few episodes and maintains the gutsy, creative horror streak it’s already started, it’ll likely turn out to be a devilishly good time.

Little Demon debuts on August 25 on FXX and Hulu. Watch the series trailer here.

Valerie Ettenhofer: Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, TV-lover, and mac and cheese enthusiast. As a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the Critics Choice Association's television and documentary branches. Twitter: @aandeandval (She/her)