This Stan Agasint Evil review contains spoilers.
Stan Against Evil Season 3 Episode 3
“I bet every town has a gorilla and every gorilla has their own story…”
At the end of the day, both people and demons alike just want to feel important. No one is immune to this level of vulnerability, whether it’s Leonard, Kenny, or even the community of Willard’s Mill (apparently it’s quite difficult to shed the “famous for burning witches” reputation).
“Larva My Life” is an episode of Stan Against Evil that explores this need to feel needed with many of its characters, but it also combines that personal idea with campy science fiction and man-in-suit monster movies. The results make for the first real hit of the season.
“Larva My Life” is an ode to ‘50s science fiction and giant Kaiju cinema, which is arguably an unconventional pairing of sensibilities for this show to zero in on, but it’s one that works in this unusual horror gumbo. The episode begins with a rather successful introduction that defies conventions of the typical giant monster Kaiju story in some very amusing ways. It’s a cold open that is pure Stan Against Evil as the series perfectly plays into classical monster tropes before it cleverly deflates these expectations with comedy. It’s also a refreshing change of pace to not have every cold open of the show harken back to Willard’s Mill’s past. A little variety here goes a long way and this introduction brings an energy from the top of the episode that never leaves.
Willard’s Mill is an established hotbed for strangeness of both a supernatural and mundane nature, but “Larva My Life” sheds some light on Leonard Wolinsky and his tragic ballad that chronicles his rise and fall through the community’s birthday circuit as the “town gorilla.” At its core this is an episode about being forgotten and the human need to still feel relevant and guest star Eddie Pepitone brings a certain relatable rawness that helps anchor the episode.
This installment focuses on Lenny’s struggles, but Evie eloquently points out that his pain is hardly unique. A lot of people go through this restless thought process and it gives this episode a level of humanity that really helps it out. This isn’t a rabid monster whose purpose is to kill, but it’s a depressed human who finds his personal pain manifest into something more destructive. Stan Against Evil is at its best when it can tie its outlandish horror to a situation that’s more intimate and personal and “Larva My Life” is one of the better examples of this.
Early on the episode then shifts into its primary dilemma and utilizes some handy Gremlins vibes as Evie and Leon pay a visit to the Curiosity Pagoda antique store. I’m always in for a riff on Gremlins, so it’s pretty satisfying to see the larva problem stem from that basic premise. Evie just wants to buy her daughter a present for her birthday and while she thinks this caterpillar larva curio would be perfect for Grace, the shopkeeper insists that it’s not meant for her, but rather for Stan. Foreboding much?
One of the better scenes in the episode is when the actual shopkeeper of the store addresses the flagrant offensive stereotypes that this “Ancient Chinese Secret” atmosphere perpetuates. Stan Against Evil is smart to call out the problematic nature of those scenes, but then also cleverly plays them against Stan’s tone-deaf nature.
“Larva My Life” also marks the return of Evie’s ex-husband, Kenny (David Koechner), in a very big way. He’s fallen on especially harsh times that leads to him shoehorning himself into Stan’s house as a guest after Evie turns him down. Kenny’s drunken efforts result in his failed attempt to gift Stan the caterpillar ceramic, but this really turns out to be a blessing in disguise for Stan. This ceramic curio holds far bigger problems than looking tacky.
The mysterious shopkeeper’s plan for this relic and Stan quickly turns sideways when Kenny is the one that gets transformed into a giant caterpillar creature and he proceeds to turn Stan’s entire house into a gross cocoon. This Kafka-esque fate was intended for Stan, but instead he’s just a disinterested bystander as he watches Evie’s ex go mad with this newfound power and importance. “Larva My Life” continues to heap on the strange and makes it clear that giant caterpillar-human hybrids are only the beginning. Two caterpillar-worshipping twins that speak entirely in unison also shack up in Stan’s house, much to his exasperation.
These twin characters feel like they’re ripped straight out of vintage ‘50s science fiction like The Day the Earth Stood Still or Them! This episode really embraces the campiness of that era of cinema and while it’s a hard tone to effectively sell, Stan Against Evil makes it work. The episode even ends with the entire cast dopily waving to a non-existent audience and the series somehow holds it together and makes it function within the framework of this story. These twins don’t pose any sort of danger, they just help ramp up the mayhem that bounces around in the walls of Stan’s house. He can barely stand two normal people, so how do you think he responds to a pair of weirdoes that function like Dr. Seuss characters?
Kenny’s unintentional involvement in this predicament pulls Evie into its orbit, whether she likes it or not. The show has done a good job at depicting their flawed relationship and it feels like Stan Against Evil might make it a yearly tradition to feature one episode where Evie’s ex tries to rope her into his troubles.
As much as her and Stan rush from location to location to correct this problem, they’re mostly just spectators to all of this bug madness. In the end, the larva relic problem even kind of solves itself. This can obviously rob the episode of its tension, but the installment instead banks on heavy emotion. This episode is arguably about Lenny just as much as it is about Kenny and Evie, so this resolution works.
Another angle that works well for “Larva My Life” is that the episode doesn’t make the information that the first shopkeeper is a demon come as a surprise. It’s obvious and the team wastes no energy coming to this conclusion. The bigger problem is to track down this renegade demon once the damage is done and Kenny’s Kaiju attack begins.
When this quickly turns out to be fruitless, the Relic Twins explain that the only way to stop this curse and save Kenny is to destroy the relic. This is pretty freaking obvious and probably what should have been done from the start. However, what should be a simple task is now considerably more difficult since Moth Kenny has eaten the damn thing. Naturally, Super Soakers filled with spoiled milk are the plan of attack.
The spectacle that follows is one of the most beautiful climaxes that the show has ever pulled off. Willard’s Mill’s police department attempts to spray a giant moth man with rotten milk as he devastates the city. The fact that this episode can have Lenny’s seemingly irrelevant struggle dovetail together with all of this is the icing on the cake. The episode ends on a chaotic fight between two monsters, but this is really just two middle-aged guys working out their frustrations.
On that note, the culmination in the miniature version of Willard’s Mill that gets demolished by “monsters” is also organically developed and feels earned. The episode cleverly hints at this resolution and its appearance in the final act doesn’t feel like it’s out of nowhere or an out of place set piece.
On that note, all of the cocoon effects in this entry look amazing. Kenny’s final form is also one of the better monster designs to come along in the series. The practical effects in this show are always impressive, but this year has been consistently topping itself in this department. It looks like so much love and care was put into the miniature city and that the art department must have had a field day with this episode. None of this looks half-assed and it will make you frustrated that someone like Michel Gondry will never direct a Godzilla movie.
“Larva My Life” finds a robust story to fuel its silliness, but this is also an entry where the character work shines. Leon gets a bunch of strong lines and even Denise gets to sing a song! However, they still both feel ultimately unimportant throughout this episode, even if they’re fun. That’s a hard thing to point out in an installment where Stan and Evie are basically ancillary to the larger plot points, but I wish the show still found more to do with these two. Hell, even put the two of them in a relationship together and start some drama with gravedigger Kevin. It’d at least increase the stakes for these underserviced characters
Stan’s apathy is especially powerful in this episode, but it’s also shocking to actually see Stan focused this season on his mission. Every episode has shown him doing research on demons that he could possibly work with to take out Eccles. It’s a level of focus for Stan that typically hasn’t been seen before, but it gives him a healthy drive for this season so far. This is also just generally one of the stronger scripts from series creator Dana Gould. It’s not surprising to see that IFC aired this episode earlier as a sneak preview for this season.
It’s the strongest installment of the year so far. The “stock shot of a city” over the establishing photography of Willard’s Mill is a wonderful gag. Plus, Evie’s bewilderment over the lack of logic at how both Lenny and Kenny are frightened by the Holy Cross is maybe the hardest I’ve laughed all season. It pokes fun at some of the nonsensical plotting of monster movie imports in such a critical way.
Not only is “Larva My Life” the best episode of Stan Against Evil’s third season, but it’s one of the best installments that the series has ever done, period. The show should take bigger risks like this more often, but as long as they tether these twisted love letters to horror and sci-fi with relatable, human problems—and as long as Stan grumbles at every step of the journey—then they’re going to find success.
Also, if Caligula’s Fist can’t make it in this world, then is any erotic bakery out there safe? Who’s going to make Grace’s birthday cake?
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.