Directed By Howie Askins
Starring Ryan McCoy, Brett Rosenberg, Abigail Richie and Ashley Bracken
Despite its direct-to-video status throwing up ominous signs that it’s sure to be just another third-rate Blair Witch knock-off, Evidence is surprisingly one of the better found footage films to emerge of late. Unnervingly tense and filled with more than a few startlingly effective scares, it’s an impressive little horror film, but like many of its genre brethren, it stumbles in the third act, dissolving its tense atmosphere with a clumsy, overreaching ending which replaces genuine fright with noisy, scattershot silliness.
By now, you’ll be more than familiar with the set-up: Campers go into the woods with a camera, bad things happen and their footage is later discovered. This time around, cameraman Ryan drags his friends off on a woodland adventure to make a documentary based around bland best pal Brett (though neglecting to mention what specifically the documentary is about). Brett, Ryan, his girlfriend Abi and their friend Ashley set up camp into the woods outside the city, but it’s not long before their sojourn into the wilderness takes a turn for the nightmarish as something unnatural begins stalking the campground.
If you’re put off by the slow burn opening act of found footage movies, then Evidence might be a bit of a slog for you. Opening with everyday characters in the middle of their average, mundane lives helps sell the whole cinema verité atmosphere and let us get to know characters before things start to go awry. But like many horror movies, character isn’t the film’s strong suit. Ryan might be the most intensely insufferable cameraperson in a found footage movie yet, trying the patience of the audience and every other character from the get-go.
While the rest of the group are considerably more bearable, they suffer from mind-boggling bouts of stupidity. Never really questioning what Ryan’s unexplained documentary is actually about, they stick around and endure his crap longer than any sane person would and don’t bother leaving the woods while they can, even though their lives are clearly in danger. Naturally, if they left the woods, there’d be no movie, but that doesn’t mean a screenwriter can’t come up with believable character motivation or circumstances to keep them trapped, instead of “We’re going to be torn to shreds by a monster, we’re in a working RV and could drive away right now, but no, lets stick around a while, leaving the safety of the vehicle to collect our flimsy tents, which are clearly worth more than our lives”.
But even the sloppy character work does little to dampen the tense atmosphere that builds over the first hour. With a building sense of dread, some incredibly well executed scares and tantalizingly creepy glimpses of the film’s monster, Evidence does a surprisingly great job at tapping into the primal terrors that made The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity such potent horror movies. As the stakes get higher and things get more frightening, Evidence is on track for a pants-wettingly scary ending, but instead takes a turn into wildly uneven territory for a disappointingly messy finale.
It’s impossible to really delve into my issues with the third act without spoiling anything (though the filmmakers themselves have given away some stuff in interviews, weirdly enough). But while the ending is certainly ambitious, especially for a ‘campers in the woods’ found footage horror movie, it also bites off more than it can chew and quickly goes off the rails. What successfully delivers for an hour as a simple, contained, tightly wound and incredibly scary monster movie soon goes for the kitchen sink approach to scares, throwing so much at the viewer it becomes ridiculous.
As it rushes to conjure up an origin for the creature terrorizing the leads, Evidence starts delving into daft plot points that the budget can’t quite measure up to and that would feel more at home in a SyFy Original B-movie. It also ignores one of the cardinal rules of horror, too: Monsters are infinitely scarier when we don’t know what they are or where they came from.
When Evidence is simply about a mysterious, monstrous creature in the woods scaring the bejesus out of four campers, it’s insanely tense and incredibly spooky. It even gets away with showing the monster quite a bit and still being frightening due to how well engineered the scares are. But when it jumps into sci-fi territory in the 11th hour and starts explaining everything away, things become far too overblown and nonsensical. The action becomes too hectic to be coherent, all the tension deflates and everything gets far less frightening as a result. Which is a shame, because the film could’ve stayed on that simple track and easily delivered a terrifying finale, but instead it’s just a promisingly spooky little found footage flick that doesn’t stick the landing.
Evidence is release on DVD in the UK on March 12th 2012.
Click here to order the DVD from Amazon.co.uk.