Spooky night shots complete with headlight beams in the mist are usually a sign that a horror story is on the cards. And when when the story is being filmed in the local woods to save money you can predict how things will play out. Most viewers will probably recognise the ‘unseen demon’ point of view from The Evil Dead films roaming through the foliage too. These are all staple elements by now after all. So you’ll be surprised to hear that this isn’t really about any sort of malevolent entity living in the shadows. It’s true that an ancient evil of the forest is going to awaken as the opening narration suggests, but if anything this takes far more from The Crow – so you know how things are going to turn out.
The black and white make-up prominently shown on the poster art isn’t there by accident. Evangeline, or Eva to her friends (Katerina Katelieva), isn’t going to be having a very good day. After a tragedy in the family she moves away from home to study and ends up staying at a college dorm. Just as this change of pace suggests that the film itself has a split personality she will soon be having an identity crisis of her own. But for the most part at least the opening is almost likeable, even if those problems at home are lacking any kind of real depth or explanation. Sure the naïve new girl in town material feels like a soap opera much of the time, but the acting is fairly natural for this kind of thing. Her room mates have enough charm to pull it off… although the dancing extras during the party they soon visit are less convincing.
There’s plenty of drinking and puking, but at least these parts are competently done. However several less than scary sub-plots soon come calling, and none of them will help Eva’s hangover. Her luck soon turns bad and things quickly go sour after she turns down a friend’s family meatloaf to spend time alone. This town has a few rather bad eggs who all seem to be in the nearby vicinity, and the local fraternity house boys are unfortunately just one part of it. After suffering a run in with these violent rich kids she also finds herself at the mercy of an unfriendly vagrant; and this is all before she bumps into a serial killer who’s been picking up hitch-hiking girls. It’s almost like this is an exhausting check list of revenge movie plot points.
The story splinters off from the domestic drama here and spends far too much time with this murderer who likes to work out in the nude and obsesses over his car paintwork when he’s not digging shallow graves. It’s an odd thing to show so much of when you know all of these contrived and unoriginal moments only exist to give the title character a simplistic motivation. But the horror moments are odd in general. You can tell these are the scary scenes in the story because the colour temperature changes so dramatically. But besides being abrupt there’s not much in terms of effective suspense. The jumps in tone are often just jarring, and the predictable nature of the story just means you’re just left waiting for the inevitable karmic backlash to arrive.
This eventually comes along in the form of an evil spirit shown living in what seems to be some sort of limbo. This place is represented by a creepy basement where Eva’s subconscious mind or her soul is tied to a chair. It’s not a bad idea in itself but offers little of note besides a few interesting shots of the entity, with claws appearing from the darkness to give her a nasty mood swing and a boost in strength at when the opportunity arises. The make-up and visual effects used to show her transformation on the other hand is far less effective. Bur regardless of how it’s depicted the script doesn’t explain any of this, or how it ties into the Christian teachings which seemed important to Evangeline’s home life earlier on.
Is it all a commentary on the importance of faith or family ties? It’s tough to say when the bookend narration is so rambling and inconclusive. It’s messages are also mixed with Japanese folklore for some reason. In the end this all poses too many questions without any answers. Plenty of folks watching have time for a standard tale of bloody vengeance but this really isn’t focused enough to deliver in that department. The story as a whole is far too meandering and they should have spent time creating one decent villain instead of including several unconvincing ones. The scenes of everyday drama are what the film-makers involved seem to be best at, so some more characterisation would have helped.
The moments that are meant to be unsettling devolve too quickly into uncreative death scenes and there’s far too much shaky editing. The cuts showing the evil in basement coming alive do add some supernatural flavour along the way but they get old really fast. Eva and her buddies just don’t get enough party time together which is a missed opportunity. This might have even worked well as a story about college kids teaming up to fight the forces of evil in the right hands. You’ve seen the rip roaring tales of revenge done elsewhere with a cheeky tone, and there are also plenty of films that choose a more sombre route. If that’s your kind if thing it’s probably best to re-watch those instead.