It's a tough world out there for the indie horror filmmaker- even more so if you're giving a go at a subgenre that most fans are so sick of, they could puke their pants. How do you get noticed? How do you say "Hey, horror fans, don't puke your pants quite yet! At least wait until you see what I have to offer."? If you're director Dominic Perez, you send your P.O.V. horror flick Evil Things in some very clever packaging that includes a confidential letter purportedly from the FBI, asking for assistance in a missing persons case. The DVD, you see, is evidence and I, your humble horror blogger, will finally get a chance to get all Columbo up in the joint. Well, I get my Columbo on insofar as I get to watch the DVD. That's for the best, really, as I've recently spent some time playing L.A. Noire and if there's one thing the experience has taught me, it's that I'd make a pretty lousy detective. I'm pretty good at watching things, though, if I do say so myself...although since that sentiment goes for pretty much anyone with workable vision, I shouldn't brag.
While I was relieved that the "official" envelope from the government didn't contain a letter censuring me (for once), I can't say I was too gung ho about another new indie P.O.V. flick. Honestly, I should censure myself for that because dammit, P.O.V. is one of my favorite subgenres (there, I said it) and the best of the best tend to come from IndieLand. What can I say? My world-weariness (yes, I have that now) had me putting off and putting off Evil Things, but dudes and y'alls, the time has come for me to clean house! I'm watching all these movies I've been avoiding and/or ignoring, and so I hunkered down, quite eager to see if the witty packaging of Evil Things would distract from a craptacular movie or enhance a good one.
The setup won't surprise anyone who's seen...well, just about any horror movie (and certainly any P.O.V. horror movie): five college-age friends go away for a weekend birthday celebration, five college-age friends are now missing. One of the five, Leo, is an aspiring filmmaker and as such, totes his videocamera along, pointing it at his buddies at every opportunity whether they want him to or not. Evil Things follows the kids as they head out of Manhattan and journey upstate through a snowstorm, finally reaching their destination: a sprawling and isolated house owned by the birthday girl's aunt.
Their simple weekend of drinking and lite debauchery is thrown out of whack almost immediately upon leaving the confines of the city as some douchebag in a black van starts harassing them. Tailgating and honking lead to outright stalking: the van appears when the kids stop at a convenience store and again as they're eating at a diner along the way. The driver, however, is never caught on Leo's camera and his motives are never clear.
Once they arrive safely at the house, the kids convince themselves that the jerk in the van is long gone. But is he? Dun dun dunnnnnn! Hint: if the jerk in the van was long gone, then the FBI probably wouldn't need my help, now would they? WOULD THEY?
Again, this does all sound very familiar, doesn't it? Also again, though, don't puke your pants quite yet! Evil Things may be of a tried-and-true formula, but that certainly doesn't mean it can't be a good movie, and it boasts several strengths that many indie films can't, be they P.O.V. flicks or not. More often than not in this type of movie, the "aspiring filmmaker" character barely knows which end of the camera houses the lens. Here, however, the camera work and video quality are terrific, a particularly startling notion given the 1st-person conceit. Chances are that it won't immediately induce motion sickness- always a plus!
The acting was also a pleasant surprise, meaning that it actually leaned toward the good or, at least, the believable end of the spectrum. The dialogue likely comprises a good deal of improv and none of it was painful. Also a highlight is the fact that these actors look and act like real college kids, not Hollywood college kids. They've got spots and braces and little purple backpacks and they're going away for the weekend because-heaven forfend in a horror movie- they're friends who want to spend time together. This is a...you know..."missing persons" case so I figured that the five kids would meet bad ends, but they were likable enough that I didn't want them to.
But maybe they didn't! You'll have to check out Evil Things to see for yourself...and see it you should, when it gets its long-awaited release this summer. It's not without flaws, mind you; the sudden onset of ambient music takes some getting used to, although both the music and the ending suggest that Evil Things is more about the man in the van than it is about the missing college kids. I haven't yet decided if that's a mistake or not. More than a little time is spent on the setup- it's 40+ minutes before anything "happens". This may try your patience, but I found that instead, my curiosity as to what fate awaited the birthday girl and her friends kept climbing. The house feels truly isolated in its snowy environs, surrounded by (not always) quiet woods, and because of this Evil Things becomes quite an unsettling, creepy movie. I really enjoyed it, and I've kicked myself three times for waiting so long after its arrival in my mailbox to check it out.
Okay, I've only metaphorically kicked myself three times. Still though, I'm going to hop over to the FBI's official site and see if there have been any new developments. I'd really kick myself three times...no, four times!...if I could crack this case and I was busy watching, you know, fucking DeathBed or something instead.