A creepy, well-executed story that leaves me with some questions.
I’m a fan of found footage films. I’m willing to concede to stretched rationale to continue filming and shaky footage has never bothered me—blame this on my fellow MTV-generation filmmakers or something. That said, I’m all for the style and greatly understand the appeal of the raw footage aesthetic. For the independent filmmaker, the growing popularity of found footage is good news. It offers a budget-friendly platform, where the focus lies heavily on performances and basic storytelling. Strong actors and a compelling story are essential. Otherwise, all you have is a You Tube video.
Evil Things has those two important ingredients. When a group of college-age friends decide to spend the weekend at on isolated mountain house for a birthday, their goodtime is quickly transformed into a nightmare. All of the young actors are natural, funny, and refreshingly “normal” looking. Oh my goodness, there’s even someone with braces and she’s not portrayed as the Milhouse of the neighborhood. The actors appear more comfortable with another as the film continues, so I suspect that the movie may have been shot in rough chronological order. There are only a few clumsy moments of performance early on. Regardless, these feel like real people and I genuinely cared for them, as the events began to escalate. I was surprised by the great deal of tension that amounted from subtle occurrences—occurrences which turn from odd to coincidental to disturbing. The final push into the climax is one my favorites scenes in recent memory. However, the rising action is so effective, that I feel the final act was underwhelming. In Blair Witch tradition, we aren’t privileged with as much information and as many sights as we hope for.
My biggest (and for the most part, only) issue with Evil Things is the amount of unanswered questions as a result of the sparse conclusion. It is not only the who and the why that are left hanging on the tongue, but there is no visual reveal of the perpetrator. Nor is there a reveal of the manner of dispatching the young adults and what he/she does with the victims. For some people, ambiguity is more frightening, but I prefer some form of a revelation.
I am also curious about the choice of aesthetic. Aside from budgetary concerns, I want to know why director Dominic Perez chose found footage. I can’t help but wonder if a traditional style of filmmaking might have been more effective for this chilling story. Home invasions films get to me more easily than others, but I felt Evil Things fell a tad short of pushing the scares over the top and I think the found footage aspect of it may have hindered the climactic departing moments. In the end, though, if found footage is what allowed this movie to become a practical reality, then the more power to Perez for seizing the opportunity.
I’m hoping the best for Evil Things. It’s a worthy film searching for distribution and some good buzz. It deserves a release, so I’m doing my part to spread the news. Many thanks to Dominic Perez himself for sending the screeners in an amusing package. Go to I Like Horror Movies and check out Carl’s review for a detailed description. I’d also like to give Johnny from Freddy in Space a shout out for hooking me (and many others) up with a screener though Perez. I’m glad he did, because it was a lot of fun!