Monday, January 18, 2010

Evil Things (2009)

Fear 3/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 3/5

We are late on the gravy train of this micro budgeted horror film that has been passed around the blogosphere like the head cheerleader to (and through) the varsity football team. Thanks to our buddy over at Freddy In Space, the irrepressible Johnny Boots for alerting us to this one.

Evil Things is a found footage horror film about a young group of five friends (one of which is an aspiring filmmaker that brings along his camera, hence the found footage) that drive out to the countryside for a weekend of fun and celebration as its one of their birthdays. I don't know what it is about the employ of the found footage format that gets me hooked but I'm a total sucker for them. As a matter of fact, yes I do know why. There is a sense of immediate realism to them, a draw of putting you front and center to the experiences that the onscreen characters are going through. In order for the format to work, it must execute on multiple levels to be effective and to that end, Evil Things mostly succeeds.

As the friends drive out to their weekend destination, they come across a dark van that initially, they pull around while driving along a winding road. For awhile, it follows them and at first its laughed off as mere coincidence. Stopping multiple times along the way, the van continues to make an appearance and what was first shrugged off as complete happenstance immediately turns to worry and increased anxiety. The kids continue along undeterred, the van folllowing but soon turning off to follow a different road. And it appears that they will be having the fun filled weekend for which they initially intended.

Getting to the place where they will call home for the weekend, the friends settle in, sing the requisite birthday song to their friend and stay up late, hanging out and knocking back a few cold ones.

The next day, they head out and hike through the woods. Time flys and it starts getting late, and the friends soon find themselves lost. As frustration mounts due to their lost sense of direction, strange noises are heard. First shunning the notion of the mysterious van and its occupant, its instead deemed an animal as it couldn't be anything else. Or could it? After stumbling around they come upon the house and re-enter. But its not long before a rapping at the front door starts in and they find a package which contains a video. They pop it in and it shows someone filming them as they hang out and actually inside the house when they sleep at night. After the viewing, the film is thrown into hyper drive, wratcheting up the anxiety factor which remains all the way until the frantic end.

As mentioned, in order for the found footage format to work, the film needs to execute on a few key levels. The most important of which is the acting which is superbly done by the onscreen actors. Nothing felt forced and their interactions were exactly like hundreds of ones I had with friends in high school and college. When they got anxious, I got anxious and when that happens, you know the director has done a fantastic job of drawing you into their world. The other important aspect which is key is atmospherics. The feeling of something happening but not, that anything can jump out of the background at any given moment, is key. And it was played to great effect, even when there was no perceived threat.

The only issue I had was with the ending. After such a slow burn thats built it feels a little rushed and it doesn't quite have that shock value that both Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity had. Is this comparison unfair? Perhaps. But when you are talking about a film like this, you can't help but do so and the end just did not have that same sort of emotional resonance.

Thats not to say the film wasn't fun or completely thrilling. It certainly is. Definitely a good one to watch in a group setting to see the reactions of everyone else.

Cortez The Killer

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the jaded viewer said...

It made it to #18 on my top horror movies of 2009.

I liked the packaging it came in and if this ever gets picked up for DVD I hope they keep it that way.

Evil Things did a good job on the shaky cam genre, even at times surpassing Paranormal Activity in some aspects.

Here's hoping D. Perez gets some exposure.

Matt-suzaka said...

I really enjoyed this one too and a lot of it has to do with the great acting and very realistic characters. I also am a pretty big fan of lost footage films just to add to the positive side of things. There are some issues, and I really liked the ending, but I do feel it could have had a little more and it does feel a nit rushed. I can only think that has to do with budget, unfortunately. Solid independent horror film though, and one that would do well if there were some more time and a little more money.

Chris Hallock said...

Cool! Good Review!

I think Mike and I are screening this in March. I'm pretty psyched about seeing it on a big screen.

Geof said...

You are lucky to have gotten to see this! I really, really, really want to see this one, but no advanced review screener for me.

lol, word verification: epicfal
I shit you not!

Jonny Metro said...

Loooooooove this movie. It freaked me out in the middle of the daytime when I first watched it, so I of course had to rewatch it at night with my wife. She was scared witless by the time it was over, and wouldn't allow me to sleep that night. This movie definitely deserves to be picked up. It's extremely difficult to believe that it STILL doesn't have an official DVD release!


Carl (ILHM) said...

I defend the abrupt ending due to the fact that it retains the realism for me, a group of frightened college kids running from a killer likely would drop the camera and miss all of the action. I just hated the tacked on second ending, took me out of the film entirely

Cortez The Killer said...

@Carl, I thought the killer actually picked up the camera and kept filming as everyone else had left the house. No? Did I miss something?

But overall, yes this is a film definitely deserving of a larger release. A lot of fun and as noted, a sense of realism brought on by the onscreen actors who did a fantastic job.