Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Evil Things

Like it or not, the Found Footage aka "Mockumentary" horror sub-genre is here to stay.

I don't have a problem with this, but sometimes the results are less than perfect. The problem with found footage movies is that pretty much anyone with a camera can make them -- you don't need stars, you don't need fancy special effects; you just need a creepy setting and a well-charged battery pack.

The best of these types of movies -- in my opinion, at least -- are the indie ones, simply because it's very distracting to see a "real" actor in these movies. We need to believe these are real people--not someone we've seen in movies or on TV.

Which brings us to Evil Things.

Are you freaked yet???

Just how EVIL are these THINGS?? (OMG.....sorry).

Evil Things is about five college friends -- Miriam, Cassy, Mark, Tanya and Leo (who is a film student who is going to film the whole trip, of course) -- decided to get away for the weekend to celebrate Miriam's 21st birthday.

So they flee big bad New York City for the snowy countryside, and right away Evil Things is off to a good start, mood-wise. The cold, wet, snowy atmosphere goes a long way to setting up a truly isolated feeling.

Along their journey, the friends encounter a mysterious van. They can't see the driver, but one thing is for sure: he's a dickhead and he has very poor driving skills, which must mean he's from New Jersey.

They seemingly leave the Van Man (he doesn't have a name, so I'll call him that) behind – but, at each pit-stop they make, the van seems to turn up.

After they finally get to the house and settle in, we get to spend time with the characters, and this is one of Evil Things ' strong points. The actors never feel like they're acting; they all come across as real, average college students and --gosh darn it-- they're all pretty likable. It would have been very easy to have the characters fall into archetypal stereotypes -- the Slutty Girl! the Asshole Guy! The Stoner! -- but the film avoids that. They're just people. There's a nice little moment where the friends throw Miriam a surprise birthday party, with a cake and those annoying candles that you have to keep blowing out over and over again. This scene could've been pure cheese, but the way the actors carry themselves is believable and even a little sweet.

Looks like someone had too much pie...

The following day, the gang decides to go on a hike, which turns out to be a big mistake because they get lost for hours. This whole sequence seems a bit out of place, as it doesn't really lead to anything. It's just the characters wandering around the woods, getting freaked out and yelling.

And then they simply find the house and are fine.

However, their trouble is really just beginningwhen they receive a mysterious videotape (remember those things???) on their front step, which they proceed to watch.  They discover that Van Man has a camera of his own, and he's been filming them THE ENTIRE TIMECUE SCARE MUSIC.

So far, so good. In fact, really good. The tension really begins to builds, and the terror begins to mount, and then---

Well, I don't want to spoil things but the truth is there really isn't much to spoil. And that is the biggest weakness of the film.

Things just sort of fizzle out. There's no real payoff. I'm not saying I needed a big solution spelled out for me, but it would've been nice if there had just been....well, something. 

Evil Things is not without its charms. A big plus is the fact that unlike many other found footage movies, Leo--the character filming the friends--is using a steady-cam rig, so the camera doesn't shake and bounce around and make everyone want to throw up into their hats.

When the film works, it really works. But you can't help having the feeling that as they got closer and closer to the end, the filmmakers just sort of said, "Eh, let's just end the movie now."

Still, if you go into the film not expecting a big pay-off, you most likely won’t be disappointed. The creepy atmosphere and realistic characters might be enough to float your boat.

I liked Evil Things--but if the filmmakers had just gone a little bit further, I might have ended up loving it.

Afterthought: I have no idea why they called the movie Evil Things, because the title doesn't fit...

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