Monday, August 01, 2016

Fantasia ’16: Another Evil

It has been a tough summer for spectral exorcists. First, the Ghostbusters reboot tried to win over skeptical fans by tarring them as braying misogynists. Now, a rather unprofessional freelancer will give the spook-dispelling profession a very bad name. An artist with a haunted cabin makes the wrong call in Carson D. Mell’s Another Evil (trailer here), which screened during the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Dan Papdakis is understandably alarmed when he sees a ghost shimmying through his well-appointed vacation home, but the first medium he consults insists it is no big deal. The spirits are ambivalent, even kind of “cool,” so he should just come to terms with their presence. It is hard to fault him for his skepticism, but he called the wrong gung-ho, emotionally insecure hardliner for a second opinion. Os Bijourn is convinced the ghosts are not merely evil, but also probably in league with the bad cat downstairs.

No joke, Bijourn invokes Satan more often than the Church Lady, but when he apparently bags the first the spirit, Papadakis starts to buy into the exorcist’s big talk. Unfortunately, he will lose confidence in Bijourn just as quickly when the ghost-busting takes a sinister turn.

Another Evil is a terribly frustrating film, because its first half is fresh and witty, yet also flavored with creepy overtones, only to face-plant the back nine. Essentially, the film turns into a ghost-hunting analog of The Cable Guy, with a teaspoon of anti-Catholic sentiment thrown in for extra added alienation. How can such an assured beginning run so far off the rails?

Mark Proksch’s Bijourn is outrageously funny when it is time for bluff and bluster, but the meltdowns and angst-fests are just kind of awkward. On the other hand, as Papadakis, Steve Zissis makes a consistently credible straight man. Dan Bakkedahl also scores respectable-sized laughs as the unusually laidback spiritualist, Joey Lee. For the most part, Jennifer Irwin and Dax Flame are stuck on the sidelines, as Papadakis’s wife and son, but they handle their horror movie business well enough when finally called upon.

It is always disappointing to watch a film sabotage itself. In this case, the heavy-handed portrayal of religious conviction and the black-and-white world view it supposedly implies does the film no favors. More to the point, it just stops being fun midway through. It is hard to half-recommend a film, especially since the good half necessarily lacks resolution. Still half is better than nothing. Horror fans can trust their instincts when Another Evil next screens at FrightFest, following its international premiere during this year’s Fantasia.