Melbourne Hello Darkness 2010 Introduction - Evil Things Review
Its opening night film was the handy-cam horror Evil Things.
Following the Blair Witch Project eleven years on, is the meandering Evil Things, which aims for authentic scares but misses the mark.
As the Blair Paranormal Cloverfield fad goes, this is FBI evidence of some missing persons as seen through the obsessive lens of an aspiring student film maker and his compulsion to record everything from boring conversations to genuine fear; never wavering with his steady hand regardless of the scenario. The 'free-form' dialogue from each of the five victims forces the authenticity; raising and lowering the tension immediately and in the process spiralling as far from reality as possible.
Evil Things is well shot, for a handheld piece the frozen vistas are quite remarkable and the winter holiday home is an excellent set piece for that unmistakable feeling of 'middle of nowhere', but regardless of location, just after the students start actually conversing, the film loses its gravitas.
Topic after topic of menial conversations begins to grate and range from goofing, whining, fighting and screaming in mere moments. An example of this is when the unknown stalker appears in 'its' ominous van and their reactions range from intense fear and overdone paranoia to immediate comfort to the point that they are joking around with each other, with no mention of the stalker until 'it' appears again.
The pacing serves as filler to build up the false sense of security only to relieve it and then to repeat the same trick. This is quite a cop out, particularly the lost in the woods scene where all sense of belief is held as they trudge around avoiding a scary noise; no cell reception, no compass, no map in sight.
It is a very artificial environment, unlike Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity which had semblance of reality in terms of basic human responses to traumatic fear.
In short it is hard to be immersed in the atmosphere and feel the 'genuine' fear they do.
The final few scenes offer some eye-brow raising moments, but certainly not hair raising ones. 'It' finally makes itself known with a creepy Ringu-esque VHS (which they conveniently have a VCR for) that reveals 'it' has been filming them and everything they do, even in their sleep! Shock and horror! The imagination, the focal point of the intention of the film, is left to wonder if 'it' is human or otherwise as it seems to have incredible stealth and unwavering patience.
After the panic sets in, cheap tricks and ridiculous strategy along the lines of 'I'll go check it out, you all stay here!' as opposed to 'let's all grab knives and huddle together in a locked room' is used to the effect of banging doors and really obnoxious screaming. There is no sight of 'it' who watches the watchers which in itself is fine and really lets the imagination work overtime, but also no suggestion of the modus operandi, other than killing off pretentious film students who film everything; a good a reason as any.
After the off screen killings conclude, the film offers an interesting end in the form of the killers' point of view, but the nifty convention is ultimately lost in the mediocrity that came before it.