A frustratingly interesting experience.
(Minor spoilers ahead.)
EVIDENCE is a 2012 found-footage horror film directed by Howie Askins from a screenplay written by Ryan McCoy, who also stars as our amateur camera operator.
The set-up is a familiar found-footage trope: a quartet of attractive yuppies trek out to the wilds and inexplicably disappear, leaving behind their video footage to later be found for our enjoyment, yet still oftentimes fails to leave any resolution. The group we travel out with this time is Ryan (Ryan McCoy), who’s filming Brett (Brett Rosenberg), and their two girlfriends, Abi (Abigail Richie), the shapely blonde, and Ashley (Ashley Bracken), the shorter brunette, covering all the bases for the younger-male-heterosexual audience. (And I don’t know why found-footage film-makers continue to use the actors’ real names as their characters’ names. For authenticity’s sake, I know, but in this day and age, give the audience more credit, please.
Whereas THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, [REC], CLOVERFIELD, et al. provide valid reasons for our cameraman/woman to be recording every single thing that happens, EVIDENCE’s script is a little lazier with the reason we’re seeing this footage: This is Brett’s first time camping and his buddy Ryan wants to document the experience. It should be noted Brett is probably a thirty year-old man.
We quickly travel out, via an R.V., to the beautiful mountain ranges of California. EVIDENCE learns from, in my humble opinion, the sins of a majority of found-footage movies: making us wait an eternity for something, anything, to happen. It’s only fifteen minutes in that we’re provided with our first scare, a daytime occurrence, too, that is very effective.
Prior to this first scare, and continuing on after, are the requisite arguments and dissention among our group. Some of the first act is uncomfortably close to BLAIR WITCH, but after viewing the film, I wondered if this was by design and they were just toying with the audience. Questionable acting skills and fair writing make these arguments feel very manufactured and unnatural. Some casting choices pulled me out of the film, too, which is always unfortunate, but especially when you’re passing off the movie as “real”. The group is visited in the night by a creepy vagrant-type. With his bright white teeth and chiseled features, this jumped out to me as clearly a handsome actor bummed up for the scene.
Once we get rolling, though, the movie is very enjoyable. There are plenty of jump scares and satisfyingly vague creatures that hunt them. One sequence reveals a creature on the R.V.’s reverse camera charging at the vehicle and it’s very creepy and well done.
Ultimately, the movie comes down to the third act, and it delivers, just not in the way I thought, or hoped. I was enjoying the glimpses and jump-scares in moderation. The finale offers creatures, government/military goons, blood, I don’t know what the fuck that was, zombies, gore; it’s all there and makes you yell out, “Holy shit!”. Yeah, there’s a complete shift in tone, pacing, and even genre to a point, but Askin’s direction and editing make for a non-stop, first-person shooter-esque experience. His skills are really on display here. We all know going in that we’re not about to witness the next “Wuthering Heights” or “Casablanca”. It’s a fun seventy-eight minute escape.
In a 2012 interview with the U.K.’s Daily Record, writer/actor Ryan McCoy states, “In January 2010, Paranormal Activity had just come out on DVD. I bought it, watched it and thought they had done so much in the set-up but somehow lost it at the end…I started thinking I could do a found-footage movie. However, my goal was to make it bigger with a last act no-one had seen before.”
Mission accomplished, my friend.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Paul J. Williams is a multi-award-winning screenwriter, producer, and director. He is also a decorated law enforcement officer of over seventeen years, having served as a Federal Agent and Police Officer in Newark, N.J.
(Photo from Zombots.)