Monday, June 1, 2009
Evil Things Review
So after seeing Johnny's posting about an independent horror flick called Evil Things, I decided to see if I could possibly check it out. I talked to Dominic Perez, the guy who wrote and directed the movie, and he said he would gladly send me a screener DVD to review for myself. I must say, he was really nice and he sent me the above package immediately. As Johnny said before, it's an ingenious packaging with a letter from the Department of Justice addressed to me and the "evidence" stamping on all the packaging. So, right off the bat, I was pretty pumped to watch the movie. Did it live up to my expectations? A quick summary first...
It’s Miriam’s 21st Birthday. As a birthday gift, Miriam’s aunt Gail lends Miriam her beautiful country house for an entire weekend. Aunt Gail’s country house is amazing. It’s a four bedroom house surrounded by breathtaking mountains and miles and miles of woods. Miriam invites her college buddies Cassy, Mark, Tanya and Leo to join her at the country house for what looks to be the most amazing weekend ever. Of course they all jump at the chance to spend a free weekend in the country, in the middle of nowhere. Miriam’s friends are totally in the mood for a big time party weekend. They’re also anxious to escape the dark and gloomy concrete jungle known as Manhattan. Miriam, Cassy and Tanya bring the food. Mark brings the beer and Leo, the aspiring filmmaker, brings his new video camera. Leo hopes to produce a short movie by documenting every amazing moment of this weekend getaway. Unfortunately, what Leo ends up capturing on camera is not a weekend of peace and tranquility, but a nightmarish descent into pure terror.
If you're new to the site, here's an explanation of the criteria I have laid out.
Cinematography: Well, it's a handheld camera movie, so the cinematography can't be looked at the same way a traditionally shot movie is. However, it is an exceptionally well shot film. The set up scenes as the group heads towards the cabin are well done. The whole film is shot with a nice sense of dread to it, never choosing to be terribly bright, but not so dark that it's distracting. It definitely succeeds in looking like found footage. The most impressive aspect, however, is the fact that I didn't ever feel like the movie got too jittery or shaky. The camera moved and shook quite a bit during the movie, but not so much that it was distracting from the plot or scares. I have to hand it to Evil Things' style, so it earns a nice 3.5 out of 5 for Cinematography.
Execution: The idea of the found footage has been done before, but Evil Things does it better than most. The movie feels like a home movie with friends. It's a pretty standard "city folk in the middle of nowhere" style of story, but it adds a nice little element: you never get to see the stalkers. Not even an arm or a leg. You get to see the van of the stalkers, but never any bit of the antagonists themselves. In fact, I don't even know if there was only one or more than one, that's how hidden they were. The main characters were also likable and believable people. You want them to survive. Even when they argue with each other, you can't help but see some humanity in the people. For Execution, I give it 4 out of 5.
Sub-Genre Comparison: I have to compare it to two different types of films here: the suspenseful home invasion type of film and the found footage type of film. As a suspense thriller, the movie definitely succeeds and holds up. I would rate it better than The Strangers (which I liked) but not quite as good as Them (which I liked a lot). It definitely stacks up to films like Vacancy or What Lies Beneath or any other suspenseful movie recently. It stacks up there, now onto the found footage films. It's got some big shoes to fill in the wake of Quarantine and Cloverfield. However, it does a damn fine job of it. The suspense keeps up despite the handheld camera movement jarring the viewers around. It even holds up to the biggest hitter (and most original at the time): The Blair Witch Project. Because it's as good as (or better than) almost anything I can think to compare it to, it earns a deserved 4.5 out of 5 for Sub-Genre Comparison.
Production Value: The settings are pretty amazing. The cabin that the people go to is pretty expansive and beautiful. The movie looks very good, especially for the stripped down look it was going for. It choose to use very few special effects, instead relying on sounds and atmosphere to produce scares. There is absolutely no gore, blood, or violence shown throughout the entire film! It has an interesting part of the film where they find a tape of the person stalking them shot from his (or her) own video camera. Even that tape looks well thought out and showcases how talented the crew is. It should hold up in look for the future, especially with the acting. It definitely goes for the low budget look without sacrificing the quality, so I give it 4 out of 5 for Production Value.
Scares: The movie certainly can produce some tension. It easily creates scary scenes with very little shown on screen, which not always an easy thing to do. In the same vein of Blair Witch, it prefers sound effects and simple happenings to scare the viewers, knowing that the scariest things are often in your own imagination. It goes from making you think it's a human, to making it seem supernatural, to human again with simple atmosphere and strange noises. My only real problem with the movie lies in the fact that it sometimes felt a bit stagnant. It would set up a nice, tense scene, and then you would find out that it was nothing. It does manage to kick it up a notch for the last part of the movie, especially after the footage from the killer of the main characters is found. And even when it was lulling a bit, it was interesting to watch. It was up and down for a bit, but overall scarier than average. I give Evil Things a solid 4 out of 5 for Scares.
While it is not a perfect film by any means, it is an extremely solid low budget film. Overall, Evil Things earned an impressive 20 out of 25. I have the utmost confidence that Evil Things will be picked up for distribution. At least it should be if any studio has any sense. It's very tense, well done, and quite engaging. The story kept moving along and the actors, though unknown, gave very good performances. I hope to hear more from Dominic Perez in the future and would gladly see anything he does in the future (and he seems like a nice guy to boot). I hope you all get to enjoy this film like I did! I would love to see Evil Things on the big screen and hope to soon.