May 26, 2012


Evidence is a wild ride. Completely unpredictable, and perhaps purposely misleading, it takes you in a direction you don't expect. While it does fall victim to some of the more usual found footage pitfalls, it's extremely rewarding to the viewer who sticks with it until the end.

The set up to Evidence is sinfully basic, so much to the point that it might even be offensive. Oh, what's that? Two guys and their girlfriends are going camping in the woods and one of them is going to film it because he wants to inexplicably document his friend's first camping trip? Mm, sounds like...the dullest documentary ever.

Our young cast ranges from sweet to abrasive, but never seem disingenuous. Is it easy to accept that the guy who runs the camera for the first act of the film is kind of a dick? Yes. Whether because that's a realistic attribute, or because the found footage sub-genre has successfully created that trope, it doesn't matter. He's a dick, and he only becomes more of a dick as the kids' camping trip ensues.

One, two, skip a few...once the thing stalking them in the woods makes an appearance, and once the kids begin running through the woods at night, you will roll your eyes. Because we've all been here before, haven't we? First with Blair Witch, and then with its many imitators, we've crossed this bridge. Sure, the fleeting glimpses the audience gets of the creature are cool. From what we can see it's an interesting design, but it's really not enough to sustain an entire film. What very misleadingly seems to be a tale of creature versus kids soon descends into a whole other kind of madness entirely.

There are certain things a movie can do that make me love it. Some of these I've mentioned before, such as surprising me when it sheds its surface-level meagerness and becomes something more. But I also love when a movie makes me feel like an asshole for dismissing it. I've seen many films for which I had high hopes, but only to give up once I was able to determine they were not going to provide me with what I had come for. And I gave up during Evidence. "This is what's happening?" I'd said. "How fucking boring."

Well...I'm an asshole. And that pleases me. I wish I could gush about how visceral and thrilling and FUN the last 15-20 minutes are, but that would completely ruin it for you. And for once the trailer (embedded below) barely scratches the surface of the more intense scenes of the film.

However (there's always a however), the film is not without its problems.

There are two kinds of found footage movies: one where people set out to capture on video exactly what it is that ends up killing them, and one where people bring a camera to their otherwise mundane excursion and happen to capture...well...the thing that kills them. Because this movie wallows in the latter, the only thing to initially maintain our interest is the kids themselves. We have no investigation into an urban legend, no inkling of any kind of what's running rampant in the woods. Because of that, we have no "hook." And since the kids are, at first, our only focal point, there are too many instances of them (the guys especially) veering off into unlikeable territory. This isn't necessarily a fault of the film - people are dicks in real life; I've met them, so have you - but once it gets to the point where you are begging the creature to burst from the woods and take off some heads, you wonder if that's exactly what the filmmakers wanted, or if they failed to restrain their actors accordingly.

Basically, if Heather from Blair Witch got on your nerves, make way for Ryan: King Dick.

Most of the film feels genuinely acted, but every once in a while a line of dialogue or snippet of a performance will feel very forced and scripted, and it can be momentarily distracting. One of the most offensive things I think a movie can do is have a character provide exposition by talking to him/herself. There's something cheap and lazy about it that doesn't sit well with me. While Evidence doesn't depend on this as a crutch, it does utilize it so a character can express how he/she is feeling, and what's supposed to be a real, captured-in-the-moment experience feels less so.

Like many other found footage movies, Evidence is at its most effecting and thrilling in the last act of the film, and while it's blocked and choreographed very well, our filmmakers may have gone a little overboard in post production. There are way, WAY too many instances of the camera momentarily freezing, blacking out, or going on the fritz as our characters flee from their stalkers. What was supposed to provoke a feeling of realism only serves to be an annoyance.

Evidence (written by Ryan McCoy, who also plays Ryan, and directed by Howie Askins) was completed in 2010 and made the film festival rounds in 2011. Some of the more popular horror sites deservedly lauded the film, which is how it caught my attention. Currently there are no plans for a North American release, but I hope it will be out sometime this year.

Fans of both the found footage sub-genre and the more visceral aspects of the recent Cabin in the Woods should give it a watch. Unlike Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, Evidence does not believe in the less-is-more technique. As John Carpenter once said, if you have a cool looking monster, show the fucking thing. Evidence will show you things that will linger in your mind long after the credits roll.

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