Another Evil Movie Review
Written by Jeff Tolbert
Written and directed by Carson D. Mell
2016, 90 minutes, Not Rated
Showed at Fantasia 2016 on July 31st, 2016
Steve Zissis as Dan
Mark Proksch as Os
Jennifer Irwin as Mary
Dax Flame as Jazz
Dan Bakkedahl as Joey Lee
Another Evil is a weird, awkward movie about an artist named Dan and his weird, awkward, burgeoning friendship with a self-styled exorcist named Os. Ostensibly about ghosts, the real focus of the film seems to be on the implicit weirdness of social life. I say “seems to be” because there are ghosts, and they do things, but those things are less important than the evolving relationship between Dan and Os. At least, I think they’re less important. It’s hard to tell because the movie seems to be poking quiet fun at everything it presents to us, ghost or human, and it’s not immediately clear with so much going on where we’re supposed to be looking.
The story centers on Dan, a successful painter, who is enjoying a getaway with his wife and son in their mountain cabin in southern California. One night strange things start to happen: noises in an upstairs room; a paintbrush thrown against the wall; and eventually a full-on ghost sighting. Dan, terrified, wastes no time in contacting a medium/exorcist, who after examining the house declares that there are ghosts but they aren’t a threat, and Dan has no right to drive them off because that would be mean. Back in the city and unhappy with his haunted vacation home, Dan contacts a second exorcist and returns to the cabin to reclaim his space from the unwanted specters.
This second exorcist is Os (short for Oscar), a winchingly awkward, frantic man in a baggy black leather jacket and black cowboy hat who promises to capture and remove the ghosts. He essentially moves in to Dan’s vacation home as he sets about catching the ghosts which haunt it, and the relationship between the two men quickly becomes the real focus. Os has a number of bizarre, seemingly baseless methods for catching spirits, and he employs them with such frantic zeal that the process becomes as fascinating as it is stupid. The exorcist is impossibly awkward, desperate for friendship but hopelessly socially inept, and as Dan befriends the strange man, the depth of his weirdness is rapidly revealed.
It’s difficult to say much more about the narrative, such as it is, without spoiling the few major events that occur. The relationship at the core of the film is its central focus, and the interactions between Dan and Os are interesting enough to carry the film through its almost non-story. Mark Proksch gives a frenetic, surprisingly realistic, nails-on-chalkboard weird performance as Os, a character who is as ridiculous as he is believable. (I’ve known one or two people who were startlingly like him.) He’s a sort of optimistic sociopath, totally unable to behave normally, totally obsessed with his own understanding of the world and his role in it and unable to see how his view of himself impacts his interactions with others. Despite all this, he’s still desperate for friendship. Steve Zissis does well as the straight man, largely a springboard for Os’s lunacy, an open-minded, basically friendly, and very human guy doing his best to cope with a crazy friend and an incidental pair of ghosts. The film is almost entirely dialogue-driven, and these two have probably 90% of the film’s screen time. Fortunately, they’re strong enough actors to make it work.
Another Evil is deliberately quotidian, emphasizing the weird-in-the-normal far more than the basically unimportant presence of the supernatural. This is an interesting approach, and one that mostly works, but it’s still hard to know, by the end, precisely how to feel about any of it. It’s billed as a comedy, but if it is comedy at all, it’s a kind of long-form comedy that as often as not asks the viewer to consider the entire situation to find what’s funny. That’s a nice way of saying that there aren’t a lot of overtly funny moments: although a lot of what comes out of Os’s mouth is funny, it’s funny in a very sad way, reflecting his inability to relate to people so clearly that it’s almost not funny. More than once things become almost too awkward, too bumbling, to watch, but Zissis and Proksch make it interesting enough to merit a viewing.
The filmmakers deserve a lot of credit for doing something fresh, injecting a little everyday humanity into a genre that often spirals too far away from the everyday to stay interesting. Innovation is not necessarily fun, though, and at times Another Evil is tough to watch. But this is in the end an interesting and entertaining film, and you should see it, especially if you understand what it’s like to have a buddy who just doesn’t quite get how to be in the world. Viewed from that angle, this may be the most realistic “horror” film ever made.
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