The found footage sub-genre of film started to become popular back in 1980 with the release of Deodato's "Cannibal Holocaust". Whilst the sub-genre trundled along, cinema fans were hit with one of the surprise releases of, not just the horror genre, but of cinema in general in 1999 with the low budget film "The Blair Witch Project" garnering both critical and consumer praise. Costing just $25,000 to make (and then as much as $750,000 in further marketing), "The Blair Witch Project" pulled in a massive $250million at the worldwide box office. With this amount of success from such a small outlay, many copycat films were then released. Whenever the genre looks like quietening down however, another huge success appears such as "Paranormal Activity" or "[REC]" (and it's remake "Quarantine"), throwing even more attempts to cash in into production. In 2009, first time writer/director Dominic Perez entered the found-footage gauntlet, resulting in "Evil Things".
The case synopsis states:
On January 9th 2009, 5 college students left New York City for a weekend in the country. 48 hours later, all 5 students simply vanished without a trace. There were no leads and no evidence... until now! It was Miriam's 21st birthday and as a gift her aunt lent out her beautiful country house for the weekend. Miriam invited college friends Cassy, Mark, Tanya and Leo to join her. Leo was an aspiring film maker and brought his video camera along to document their journey. What is captured on his videotape, and now this DVD, is not a celebration but a sinister and nightmarish descent into pure terror.
The film starts off reasonably well, and the FBI evidence screen instead of opening credits was a nice touch. The tension builds up nicely in the opening act as the college buddies drive to the cabin, coming across a mysterious van which at first overtakes them, then stops in front of them. When they pass the van, it overtakes them again. Over the coming scenes, they see the van everywhere they go, from the petrol station to a small town diner. Once they reach the cabin, things quickly become mediocre with poor dialogue and horrible pacing until the final act which sees a quick increase in tension and quality.
The cast are all first time feature length actors and actresses with some only having the occasional short to their names. The acting is of a passable quality and I do think that although some sections were overplayed, they all have possible b-movie careers ahead of them, in particular Laurel Casillo who managed to portray how scared she felt better than any of the others as Cassy. Often it feels as though a lot of what the cast are saying is unscripted to help feel as though we are watching a genuine videotape, but it could just be the signs of poorly scripted dialogue during the slow paced mid-section of the movie.
Even though it's Perez's debut as a director I feel he managed to get some very well shot pieces, especially with how hard it is to make a movie like this look authentic. I would like to see what he has to offer in the future. Unfortunately, Evil Things suffers too much from the slow second act making it a difficult film to recommend, despite a good lead-up and ending. Found footage fans will dig it, but everyone else should rent it first.