Directed by Howie Askins
Since this found footage/faux documentary horror fare resurgence has come about, I’ve been fairly receptive to it. Look at what is has given us: Rec 2, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity. But for every one of those films – each pretty damn good – there is a layer of detritus to wade through. Cheap, uninspired knock-offs out to cash-in on the latest fad. And that’s to be expected. Still, I don’t mind traversing the landscape of this sub-genre to find a gem.
Which brings us to Evidence, an indie film I like and hate in equal amounts. Mixed bag, I know. Parts of Evidence are better than the whole. Director Howie Askins pulls off some especially great moments that make you sit up and reach for the reverse button so you can analyze what you just saw. But God, the script is a mess and, because of that, the actors – including writer/star Ryan McCoy – limp through banal drama and dialogue until they reach an “oh shit!” third act that plays out like a low rent Halloween horror maze in action (complete with shirtless weirdos running about in camouflage pants and gas masks). Evidence is clearly trying hard to distance itself from the norm, as a result, it comes across as if they were making it up as they went along as opposed to evolving in an organic way.
The story treads familiar ground at first. Four friends – Ryan, Brett, Ashley and Abigail – venture out of the big city and into the woods for a camping expedition. The entire film is told through the lens of Ryan’s camera because he’s out to make a documentary. Before long, the trip turns sour and this foursome begins to hear weird screeches. Someone rattles a tent. And what looks like a bush in the distance isn’t actually a bush but a thing that’s walking around on all fours. But what the hell is it? This is the question Askins want you to ask time and time again. And he’s quite deft at creating mystery. The script, however, cuts the ambiguity with the dull blade of lackluster performances and clichÃ©d tension that usually ends with the line turn that f**kin’ camera off! Haven’t heard that line before.
Things take a particular turn for the silly when a disheveled man approaches the quartet sitting around a campfire. Nothing feels genuine about the guy and the air of creepiness he tries to evoke doesn’t work. He just looks like a handsome actor they dragged in and tried to dirty up and look nutty.
As the threat facing our leads begins to mount, the usual Blair Witch shenanigans erupts. There’s dissent in the group. Lots of yelling. Rash decision-making. And nothing to really get you on their side. They’re all a bunch of assholes, really.
Then the four-legged beasties begin their attack and the bodies begin to drop. Two survivors are left to carry Evidence‘s viewer through the last act of the film and – this is no spoiler as its in the plot synopsis seen everywhere – it turns out they’ve wandered into some government experiment that has gone awry. Think Resident Evil or what is alluded to in The Mist.
Askins heavily relies on sound effects to make up for the fact that he doesn’t have a ton of soldiers to show off. So, as the remaining pair of survivors run through a labyrinthine complex, gunfire is heard all around and the wailing of a siren continuously reminds you that the shit has indeed hit the fan. But you have to wonder, if there is a government compound near the camp ground the foursome stayed at – which was only a half mile from the main road – wouldn’t someone have come across it during a hike? Hell, or heard that annoying alarm?
Nevertheless, with every minute that ticked down to the finale I lamented the demise of the ambiguity Evidence constructed so well (acting notwithstanding). The throw everything in, including the kitchen sink! approach – while slightly entertaining and technically rough around the edges – fails. The story slides in a military type who spouts out the usual “Move! Move!” and “Give me that camera!” with SyFy tough guy machismo. There’s something to do with a pregnant girl. And creatures run rampant. I’m sorry, wasn’t I just watching another movie ten minutes ago?
Evidence. A good effort, but I couldn’t groove to such an extreme tonal shift (and I’ve grown mighty tired of seeing on-screen threats zombie-like maniacs).