Directed By: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Starring: Stephen Moyer, Aml Ameen, Caitlin Stasey
Tag line: "Murder is an art"
Trivia: In Germany this film had the added title "On the Trail of the Killer"
A horror film wrapped in a police procedural, 2013’s Evidence takes advantage of the found footage format to present a perplexing mystery, and while the ending may frustrate a few viewers, it’s definitely an exciting ride while it lasts.
Several people have been butchered in the desert town of Kidwell, Nevada, and the police investigating the murders have recovered a couple of video cameras, as well as some cellular phones, from the scene, hoping they might contain images that will help them find the person or persons responsible for the slaughter. With Detective Burquez (Radha Mitchell) leading the investigation, a handful of Nevada’s finest, including Detective Reese (Stephen Moyer), view the material, and what they see is shocking, to say the least.
What started as a Las Vegas getaway for up-and-coming actress LeAnn (Torrey DeVitto); her best friend (and wannabe director) Rachel (Caitlin Stasey); and LeAnn’s musician boyfriend Tyler (Nolan Gerard Funk) turned into a nightmare of epic proportions when their shuttle bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. Along with fellow passengers Vicki (Svetlana Metkina), Steven (Albert Kuo), and Katrina (Dale Dickey), the three followed the driver, Ben (Harry Lennix), to an abandoned truck depot. But instead of finding a phone, they encountered a serial killer in a welder’s mask, who, over the course of a single night, hunted them down one-by-one.
While the footage does show some of the murders in graphic detail, it always stops short of revealing the killer’s identity. Can Burquez and Reese piece together the clues in time, or will a psychopath get away scot-free?
Most found footage movies simply present the so-called “recovered” images, with only a title screen or two to explain what happened, but Evidence takes a different approach, allowing us to sit in with the police as they watch the videos for the very first time. Aside from enhancing the film’s dramatic effect (we see their honest reaction to it all), this also heightens the tension by making us more alert; like Burquez and Reese, we’re looking for clues, which pulls us deeper into the central mystery. In addition, the movie takes the time up-front to establish its characters (via “early” footage of the three leads before they took the trip, as well as the interviews Rachel conducted with the other passengers when they climbed aboard the bus), and even though we realize the majority will not survive the ordeal, we’re still on the edge of our seat, rooting for them as they face off against one very determined killer.
Featuring a masked assailant with a specialized weapon (an acetylene torch), Evidence works quite well as a slasher film, but it’s the way the movie draws us in that impressed me most. While we know early on what’s going to happen (the opening sequence takes us on a tour of the murder scene, where we see a charred body, a severed arm, and some other clues scattered about), the excitement comes from piecing it all together, which results in a few surprises, including a final twist that, though a bit far-fetched, is genuinely shocking. An intense, harrowing look at a murderer in action, Evidence puts a new spin on the sub-genre, and because of this, I’d even recommend it to those who’ve grown weary of the found footage approach.