The Evil in Us
Directed by: Jason William Lee
Run time: 90 minutes
The Lowdown: The Evil in Us – the debut feature from writer-director Jason William Lee – is as ambitious as it is flawed.
It’s like Lee watched a bunch of gory ‘group of friends go to a cabin and bad shit happens’ movies and decided, I can do that, but better.
Lee’s grand vision – the hook that he isn’t entirely successful in baiting properly – goes well beyond a polluted water supply or an ancient evil about to be unearthed. Nope – he creates a sinister shadow organization run by a scheming politician that kidnaps people and secretly experiments on them, exposing them to a toxic agent that transforms them into lunatic-fringe cannibals, capable of killing and eating even those they love most. Then, the scheming politico has scientists who are able to infuse that toxic agent with party drugs, namely marijuana and ecstasy. Once someone ingests the agent, and is exposed, he or she can then infect other people.
So far, mostly good.
But, here’s the rub – Lee waits until almost the very end of his movie to clue viewers into any of this. Sure, there are brief sidebars where we see the scheming politician, only we don’t know he’s a politician. And even though we get glimpses of the agency’s secret lair, we have no context to form an opinion or any foundation to base suspicion.
Instead, for the first 80 minutes or so, The Evil in Us plays out like a high-calorie indulgence, a well-intentioned facsimile of past ‘cabin in the woods’ horror films that’s neither as competent or filling as you would like.
Lee hits the required beats of the horror template, but he fails to bring anything terribly original to the table – until the WTF coda, that is.
There’s gore galore as the group of overly-familiar horror character stereotypes launch into their celebration at the isolated retreat, and the practical effects are commendable. But it just feels too routine for too long.
If Lee had instead focused on the wider-reaching implications of the contagion, and allowed viewers some insight into the politician’s nefarious plan, we might have found ourselves invested more in the fates of the poor young adults who find themselves unwitting lab rats.
The Evil in Us could find a second chance, if DVD sales are brisk. And, if Lee gets the opportunity to expand his vision, here’s hoping that he foregoes the familiar to test out some radical and original ideas to goose audiences with something unexpected instead of something rote.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – A mysterious agency led by an evil Republican-like politician who wants to damage society in order to take control.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Baywatch: Extended Cut (Paramount, 121 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): As far as TV-to-film adaptations go, Baywatch is neither the gold standard (consider The Fugitive or Dragnet) nor the cash-grabbing abomination (here’s looking at you, C.H.I.P.S., The Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky & Hutch, etc.) that critics made it out to be.
Director Seth Gordon, who gave us Horrible Bosses, one of the funniest films of the last 10 years, does a capable job transitioning the former cult cheese of David Hasselhoff’s iconic lifeguard serial into a feature-length exercise.
Baywatch is only fitfully funny, which is a problem, and it relies too heavily on Dwayne Johnson, but there are some bright spots, most notably Zac Efron, once again taking self-deprecating aim at his heartthrob status for some solid laughs, and the surprisingly sweet subplot romance between buxom, blonde lifeguard CJ Parker (Kelly Rohrbach capably stepping into the role made famous by Pamela Anderson) and newbie, nerdy lifeguard Ronnie (a game Jon Bass).
There’s a lot of wink-winking going on, and too many gags and extended action scenes fall flat, but if you’re watching Baywatch the movie, you’re probably not going to care about those minor failings.
The Slayer (Arrow Video, 90 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): J.S. Cardone is well-known in genre films for helming and/or writing a slate of B-grade horror, sci-fi and action titles dating back to his debut, 1982’s The Slayer, which is getting its high-definition coming out, finally, courtesy of Arrow Video. The Slayer is classic textbook 1980’s-era horror goodness, filled with scantily-clad female victims, an overly-ambitious plot, which deals with a supernatural dream beast that kills anyone who sets foot on a desolate island retreat, and some seriously impressive practical effects work. The central creature is both original and appropriately grotesque. Don’t worry too much about the story – much like a lot of ‘80s horror, the plot only serves to move victims into vulnerable situations – and just kick back and appreciate this underseen gem.
Amsterdamned (Blue Underground, 113 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Speaking of underseen gems, the great Dick Maas’ Amsterdamned is a late-80’s blast – a serial killer thriller that spotlights an unlikely villain, a killer diver who uses Amsterdam’s canal system to target unsuspecting victims, many of them local prostitutes. Amsterdamned is a hoot, filled with great dialogue and unexpected tension. Highly recommended.
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