Saturday, August 1, 2015

#1,811. Evil Things (2009)

Directed By: Dominic Perez

Starring: Rhonda Balcom, Courtney S. Bunbury, Gail Cadden

Trivia: The film took three months to write, seven days to shoot, and one month to edit

Miriam (Elyssa Mersdorf) has just turned 21, and to celebrate, she and four of her college chums: Leo (Ryan Maslyn), Cassy (Laurel Casillo), Mark (Morgan Hooper) and Tanya (Torrey Weiss), brave the snowy roads to spend the weekend at a spacious house in New York’s Catskill Mountains. Hoping to record a video diary of the festivities, Leo brings along his brand new camera, promising Miriam he’ll make a copy for her once they’re back in the city. But something bad happens over the course of the weekend, and as a result, they all seemingly vanish into thin air. The search for clues runs cold until a videotape (from an anonymous source) makes its way to the FBI, and based on its contents, odds are that Miriam and her pals will never be seen again.

The feature-length debut of writer / director Dominic Perez, Evil Things begins with the standard found footage convention: a text-filled screen, presumably entered by the FBI, classifies the tape and its contents as evidence in a missing person’s case. From there, we join the film’s leads as they travel by car to the Catskills in the middle of a snowstorm. The first hint that all is not well comes when a black van, its windows heavily tinted, passes them, and then slows down once it’s out in front, as if the driver were playing a game. It won’t be the last time they see this van during the drive, putting all five on edge before they've even reached their destination. The suspense then eases as the friends enjoy everything country life has to offer, and unfortunately, this section of the film runs a bit too long (even a walk in the woods, which takes a turn for the worse, doesn’t ratchet the tension up as much as it could have). Luckily, the final act features some genuinely frightening moments, and the leads play their parts well enough to make it all seem believable.

Viewers with even the slightest familiarity with found footage will realize early on that Evil Things doesn’t stray far from the usual formula (during the car ride up, the other characters tell Leo, at several points, to put the camera down, and despite the fact he has no reason to continue shooting, he does so anyway). The only exception comes late in the movie, when director Perez, quite unexpectedly, tosses in some incidental music (though not overbearing, it feels out of place in a film of this sort). This deviation aside, Evil Things isn’t what I would call a unique entry in the sub-genre (at least not as unique as it could have been). It’s certainly not a bad movie; on the contrary, it’s very good in spots. Just don’t go in expecting something you haven’t seen before.

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