Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Some Evidence Might Be Misleading: A Movie Review

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Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi.

Writer: John Swetnam.

Cast: Caitlin Stasey, Torrey DeVitto, Harry Lennix, Svetlana Metkina, Dale Dickey, Radha Mitchell and Stephen Moyer.

Evidence is a film from first time screenwriter John Swetnam. His screenplay is set-up much like a typical slasher film, but this title is really more of a thriller. Evidence stars Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill) and Stephen Moyer ("True Blood"). Both actors play detectives, who are trying to piece together a series of murders via found videotape. They are mostly successfull; yet, the killer or killers is always one step ahead of them. And, Evidence is a solid entry in the found footage style of filmmaking.

The film's story involves several passengers, journeying to Las Vegas. The future magician, chorus line dancer, fugitive and shady bus driver are some of the characters on the bus. Each character is given a few lines of dialogue, before they are chased into the desert by a masked killer. Thankfully, one of the victims has recorded all of the action for the viewer's sadistic pleasure and for detectives to solve the crime, post-mortem.

There are elements of shocking horror in this feature. The killer uses a welder's shield to hide behind. His or her identity is constantly in mystery. As well, the killer uses an acetylene torch to torment his or her victims. The killings by this instrument are unsettling and violent. With these elements, the film plays out much like a slasher film, in the film's first section of narrative. This viewer wonders how the film would have played out as a horror feature, alone.

Though, Evidence is essentially a crime thriller. Crime thrillers often incorporate detectives and a case to be solved. In this film, Reese (Moyer) and Burquez (Mitchell) are the ones trying to solve several homicides, in a mostly incompetent fashion. As well, crime thrillers often utilize mystery to build tension. In this thriller, the killer's identity and motive are the crux of the film. And, crime thrillers will often pique a viewer's interest by challenging the watcher to guess the killer's identity, amongst a group of suspects. Almost every character in this film is a potential killer; though, some are more up to the task than others. All of these elements are incorporated in Evidence, but viewer's might be more skilled in guessing the killer's identity compared to the detectives, in the film.

Director Olatunde Osunsanmi's latest feature is shot in a found footage style and this shooting style is not for everyone. This film fan is still surprised to see this directing style utilized so much in film today. Ever since The Blair Witch Project (1999), filmmakers have been experimenting with this shaky style of shooting. This style of shooting has seen a resurgence over the last three years, in dozens of films. And fortunately, Osunsanmi utilizes this directing technique effectively in Evidence. There are some slow moments early in the film, shot through a shaky camera. But, the film manages to bring the viewer partially into the action by filming much of Evidence from a first person perspective. Found footage films can be filmed poorly, but this is not the case here.

Evidence is a mostly entertaining viewing experience, despite a weak ending. Viewers might be disappointed by the reveal of killer's identity, which was not set-up well. Yet, Evidence consistently offers up several curious scenarios, in darkened rooms. The deaths onscreen are often bloody and gruesome, while the film's second narrative (from the detectives' perspective) does not mesh well with the earlier narrative. Viewers searching for a standard horror feature will not find one here. Instead, Evidence is a blend of genres: thriller and horror. This blend can sometimes break up the tone of the film. But, this title still brings a few enjoyable surprises and misdirections to the screen.

Overall: 6.75 out of 10 (this viewer correctly guessed the number of killers, but not the actual killer or motive, try and figure out the murderer for yourself).

*in theatres July 19th and video-on-demand August 20th.

A trailer for Evidence is available here:

Evidence at RLJ Entertainment

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