AKA MAL NOSSO
AVAILABLE ON DVD: NOW
RUNNING TIME: 89 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Charles is a serial killer. He makes his money as a hired assassin, advertising on the dark web with a brutal snuff video, and kills young women for pleasure. A man named Arthur finds him and asks him to do a job for him. He doesn’t much want to talk about it – all the instructions and information are on a USB stick which he gives him along with the cash. However, it soon becomes apparent that he’s got this guy to kill his own daughter. Why has he done this? Is he also a horribly evil person, or are there more complex reasons for this dreadful decision that he’s taken?
Unsettling, unpredictable and uncompromising, this debut feature from Brazilian filmmaker Samuel Galli – who also wrote, edited and produced – perhaps isn’t one for the popcorn crowd, but it’s certainly one who like their horror off the beaten track. Yes, it certainly deals with very familiar genre staples like bloody murders, demonic possession, even some good old fashioned EC comics-style supernatural retribution- but it tries very hard to put an original angle on all this. Divided into two halves, it tells its story in an unusual manner, the majority of the second half taking place not after but before the first half. This will probably pleasantly surprise some and initially irritate others though the device ends up bringing far more power to the story, even if personally I found that the style and approach of the second half jarred just a bit with the very different way in which the first half unfolds. There’s no doubt though that, on the evidence of this film, Galli is someone to watch, having a distinct knack for two things in particular – making lengthy static shots as visually interesting as possible, and wringing a great deal of emotion – sometimes subtly, sometimes not so – from moments which many other filmmakers would have handled more mechanically.
The current retro 80’s-style synthesiser soundtrack revival continues in great fashion with the opening of Our Evil, Guilherme and Gustavo Garbato’s instantly very cool main theme recalling the work of John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream as well as perhaps, just a little bit, Philip Glass. We see Arthur asleep in bed, then getting up and pausing before a door, which he then opens just a little before closing it. He already seems to be a troubled man. He goes onto the dark web and scrolls past delights such as fake credit cards”, “cannibalism” and “necro” before he finds our serial killer Charles who advertises with a video of himself killing a woman. We cut to Charles with a woman gagged and tied to a trolley whom he then partly scalps before shooting her. It’s pretty grim and nasty, and may put off some viewers of a more sensitive disposition from carrying on further, though surely most people know that, these days, a horror film has to be pretty hardcore to get an ’18’ certificate. The two men meet in a bar and Philip tells Charles that the killing he wants done must be before midnight on the 12th, and that he can only receive the second half of his payment an hour after the job is done. All other relevant information is on digital files. Philip leaves, and Charles gets two pretty girls to come home with him. Unlike in many other films, we’re given the chance to sympathise with this couple who are in love but resort to turning tricks to get places to stay for the night, making their subsequent deaths all the more upsetting. Not all the brutality is dwelt upon – a stabbing is mostly alluded to in an artful shot from under a chair – but it’s still harrowing stuff and you could be forgiven for thinking the film was going to carry on like this and become too much if you’re not too keen on this kind of thing!
But no, we now switch to Arthur spending quality time with his daughter Michele. We wonder what manner of man is Arthur? He’s a guy who’s just recruited a horrible maniac to murder someone, yet he’s been clearly uneasy about doing it, not even watching all of the snuff video. And then it becomes apparent that the victim-to-be is Michele, and there’s a tremendous, if extremely uncomfortable, build up of suspense as Arthur, and we, await what seems to be the inevitable. Arthur’s obviously uncomfortable about it all, but also seems to want it to be over soon. Our Evil borders on being quite brilliant here, not least because of the superb acting of Ademir Esteves who conveys deep pain, torment and anxiety but keeps it low key, as if he’s so worn out by all this hurt that he just doesn’t have the energy to let it all out externally. Esteves is stunning throughout, often showing so much by just a simple look, and really his job on this movie was quite hard because he had to go along with the way the script doesn’t reveal what’s really going on until near the end, so he couldn’t be too much of an open book.
Anyway, the waiting game eventually comes to an end, and we then adopt more the point of view of Charles as Arthur tells him of his past and the events leading up to the terrible recent ones. We see a teenage Arthur see dead people and other odd visions, and for a while it sometimes feels like we’re watching a different film as raw and believable realism gives way to dreamlike, supernatural fantasy in which you’re not always sure of the nature of what you’re watching. As I write, I’m still not convinced that the two halves cohere properly into one whole, but the tale Galli’s telling still has considerable emotional power and you’ll end up feeling so much for Arthur [a character who – don’t forget – we started the film hating] it may hurt. And Galli manages to put a somewhat different spin on things we’ve seen time and time again such as demonic posession. Arthur becomes an exorcist, and visits a woman who’s doing some seriously strange things. While we do see the woman desperately struggling against the entity which is taking her over, and even a pretty effective, slimy demon creature which looked to me like it was a person in a suit rather than CGI [in fact there wasn’t any obvious CGI in the whole film to me, hurray!], but the emphasis is on the woman’s young daughter sitting downstairs, covering her ears so she can’t hear her mum’s cries of agony and trying to fill her mind with her favourite memories of her mother spending time with her in the garden. It’s really pretty moving and I’m still moved about it as I write this review.
Our Evil recalls some of the work of Nicolas Winding Refn in places, with lots of sequences when characters move slowly while the soundtrack loudly plays. Many scenes play out in mostly lengthy static shots, or shots where the camera just very slowly zooms in or zooms out. Some may find that this causes the fairly short film to move far more slowly than it needed to, though I find this kind of simplicity of style quite refreshing considering the frantic way many movies are shot today, and the sometimes sparse sets are often very stylishly lit with good use of various colours and shadows. The way of shooting means that the performers really have to give it their all, and they mostly come up trumps. Ricardo Casella as Philip has a couple of moment where he didn’t quite convince me of the misanthropic, very Henry-like serial killer that he was supposed to me, but mostly he’s fine. And Luara Pepita doesn’t have many scenes as Michele but really sticks in the memory because she represents probably the only real ray of light in the whole film. No, Our Evil isn’t a happy picture, but you may not be able to resist a grin or two come the climax, and once you’ve seen it all you’ll probably agree that the approach is the right one. Galli also chooses not to reply much on conventional shock tactics, and doesn’t relly need to do so anyway, because there’s a real feeling of dread throughout even when nothing seems to be happening, partly because of Alessandro Laroca and Eduardo Vermond Lima’s unnerving sound design which plays just as big a part as the score.
Slightly jarring in the two differing styles of its two sections, and maybe a bit rushed at the end as if they just didn’t quite have enough money to finish things satisfactorily, Our Evil is nonetheless a must see for the more discerning horror fan, and I only wish that I’d had time to see it last year because it may very well have made my top five horror films of the year. It’s confident, clever and sadly probably destined to be remade in English on ten times the budget but with only half the skill.