Recently I came into possession of a package marked “CONFIDENTIAL” and bearing a return address referencing a USDOJ field office. The contents of said package was a DVD also marked confidential and with the imprint of the FBI along with a letter from the FBI that speaks of an unsolved missing persons case. Apparently five friends left New York City for a weekend in the Catskills and disappeared without a trace. It also mentions a videotape that was delivered anonymously to FBI offices in Washington, DC. That tape has been encoded to DVD and is the only evidence in the case. The hope is that anyone watching the disk may be able to provide more details/clues as to what may have happened to the missing.
Pretty clever marketing for a low budget film, don’t you think? It is more than just adding in a press release or some other related piece of fluff. This goes that extra mile and chooses not to add to fluff but to add further context to the film. Sure, few people will ever actually see it, but I still like it.
Evil Things is a short feature that runs a scant 75 minutes. It proves to be the right length — any longer and it would have been stretched past the point of no return. As it is, the biggest complaint I have about it is that it feels a tad long with too little actually happening.
The film has elements reminiscent of Spielberg’s debut Duel as well as the likes of Jeepers Creepers, Blair Witch Project, and Paranormal Activity. It is not an original film by any stretch, but it is a well executed low-budget thriller that wants to be the slasher response to Paranormal Activity (well, not really, as I think their productions were pretty close to each other).
We open with the friends getting together to leave the city and head north. One of them has just gotten a new camera and is dead set on recording everything on their weekend getaway. Well, off they go, into the snowy Catskills of New York. The trip is a slow one as road conditions are pretty poor. I guess the production lucked out by having heavy snow to work with their story. This is where the fun begins.
They start a little game of leap frog with an ominous looking van. Following their meeting on the road, wherever they stop the truck seems to be there. It rattles the young group, but they continue on their way to the weekend getaway. I really don’t want to say any more about the story as there is very little to say that would avoid spoiler territory, so I am going to stop there.
Evil Things was written and directed by Dominic Perez, his feature debut. He demonstrates a clear grasp of the medium and is able to tell a cohesive and mostly involving story with minimal elements. This is the kind of movie that anyone could make — it has no special effects, limited locations, a small cast, and a straightforward story. This is not to say it is an easy task as the simplest of films has countless points that can spin it off into disaster.
We follow the friends for a long time and while I do not always buy them as a close-knit group (a criticism I have of many movies centering on a group of “friends”), I do like their interactions. I also found the flow of the movie to be believable as we watch the situation become more and more tense. The final 15 minutes or so really got me on edge as things begin to happen at a faster pace and the final disappearance of the friends comes closer and closer.
If you are familiar with the films I mentioned earlier, you likely have a pretty good idea of the direction this film goes in. Still, don’t let familiarity breed contempt. It is a fine film that features fine performances from the cast, a believable build in tension, and leaves you with plenty of room to fill in the blanks while remaining open enough to allow multiple interpretations.
Is it a movie you want to revisit over and over again? Probably not, but it is definitely worth a viewing. I look forward to whatever Dominic Perez may be up to next.