Release Date: August 29, 2017
Director: Jason William Lee
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 90 Minutes
The Evil In Us is a drab and annoying cabin-in-the-woods horror movie where, surprise, the monster was inside of us all along. It doesn’t really matter who the characters are because their personalities are totally vapid and interchangeable. Two of the leading women are blonde and horny, with the only distinguishing factor being that one is already in a relationship while the other is trying to get with the sole single man.
To aim for some kind of depth, the film has a plot running concurrently with a cabin-in-the-woods plot. But within five minutes of finishing the movie, it’s hard to remember what exactly the point of that concurrence was, not to mention the names of any of the characters.
Why is it so hard for twenty-somethings to act like twenty-somethings on camera? It can’t just be that these actors are bad, mainly because there are moments of sincerity contained herein. It’s only when they are acting like horny twenty-somethings, with their flirting, drinking and other assorted debaucheries.
While I’ve met people who insult their friends for jokes and go to cottages with the express purpose of getting laid, it doesn’t look like this most of the time. Rather, it looks like Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, and, indeed, the first 30 minutes of this – before the real horror begins – feels like someone trying to mimic those compelling characters with poor writing and with cocaine rather than weed.
And the cocaine is important I think. The kinds of upper-middle-class cokeheads who populate this film are so vapid that what happens to them almost feels justifiable. Unlike similar haunted films, such as Friday the 13th, Evil Dead and Cabin in the Woods, where the horror component is derived at least in part by some likeability factor in the victims, these people are all awful. We don’t want the characters in those other movies to die because we kind of like them. I don’t like anything about the people in this movie, so there was no suspense and no horror.
That’s not to say the film is entirely without worth. The camerawork was obviously handheld (or at least very mobile), and the filmmakers used this mobility to create some surprisingly compelling scenes in the second half. Characters aren’t generally waiting around for events to happen; they run toward the horrific settings and seek out their freshly killed friends. While it doesn’t always feel realistic, it does make the film more watchable.
In the horror renaissance we’ve been experiencing this decade, I realized that I no longer have time for substandard horror films. You can do the formula well and impress me; you can subvert the formula and impress me; you can make something that feels truly new and impress me; but competent acting and compelling writing are still prerequisites for quality. If you can’t at least get those things right, nothing else matters.