The found-footage genre has been greatly overused as of recently. While it’s been used since as early as 1980s Cannibal Holocaust, it’s currently in a state of overabundance. Surely we can thank The Blair Witch Project for this. But where that film succeeded so greatly was in telling a simple story of a group of filmmakers stranded in the woods tormented by what may or may not be a benevolent spooky specter. While there’s been some great use of it along the way to now (okay, only [REC], Cloverfield, and Blair Witch) it hasn’t taken long to run it into the ground. Which seems to be the only thing the new Evil Things seems hell-bent on achieving.
Five friends are venturing out to a house in the middle of nowhere for Miriam’s (Elyssa Mersdorf) 21st birthday. Leo (Ryan Maslyn) has just bought himself a brand new camera and refuses to turn it off much to everyone’s chagrin. Along for the weekend are Cassy (Laurel Casillo), the pretentious one; Mark (Morgan Hooper), the aggressive one; and Tanya (Torrey Weiss), the hot one. Traveling the icy roads to Miriam’s aunt Gail’s (Gail Cadden) house, Tanya quickly gets sick while they all start getting harassed by someone in a van that probably uses the handle “Rusty Nail.” Being stalked by someone in a van is one thing but it’s another when you get to your destination and the power hasn’t been turned on. Aunt Gail shows up to give the kids a fake scare and then everyone has a wonderful evening of booze and pasta.
The following morning everyone is forced to head out to the wintry wonderland and it’s not too long before they lose their bearings and start blaming each other in a rather familiar fashion. Eventually they find their way back but not before they all start hearing noises in the woods and start screaming at each other and running for their lives against unseen forces lurking just beyond the camera light. Back at home they start receiving anonymous phone calls right before The Ring’s Samara leaves a wrapped video tape on the door step featuring footage making everyone stand in front of big open windows with the lights on. Now they’re under house attack by someone who thinks he’s the second coming of The Silence of the Lambs’ “Buffalo Bill” lurking around the house with his own video camera using night vision.
When the viewer’s main focus while watching your film becomes making a checklist of all the films being ripped off you have much bigger problems; even more so than the inappropriate “spooky” music playing over the footage. A note to writer/director/editor Dominic Perez, when you feel the need to add eerie music over the proceedings something isn’t working. You can cut a lot of slack when it comes to low budget films and first time filmmakers that wear their inspirations on their sleeves. But it’s another thing altogether when every scene feels like it’s been copied and pasted from far better films over the years. Let alone when one of them has won Best Picture.
Referencing films is another route you can always go, something Eli Roth, Kevin Williamson, and more recently Rubin Fleischer have been mining to great acclaim. For every section of the film that happens to work it drags itself out to a breaking point which shows that Perez was in desperate need of someone else in the editing booth. We know that everyone wants to have their 15 minutes of fame. In all honesty, had the film been cut down to that length, maybe Perez could have achieved his own. However, as it stands, Evil Things only plays out like a been-there/done-that greatest hits collection without one ounce of originality or even any flare of its own.
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