Sarah, a mentally-disturbed teen, has a jarring premonition of her friends’ impending deaths one night at a sleepover. As her house guests begin to turn murderously against each other, Sarah must determine whether her visions represent the preventable or the inevitable… or something entirely more sinister
I am at a loss. I cannot bring myself to type one word describing in detail what bothers me most about “The Evil Inside” without spoiling the final twist. It would prove an impossibility to even mention by names the countless other genre entries that have utilized this sad attempt at pulling a proverbial rabbit out of the hat without giving it away. Even forced to go so far as to use the actual title of the film I’m reviewing within the opening paragraph cannot save me from artistic impotence in this matter. However, I can say this in no uncertain terms and without hesitation: If the ending of “Evil Inside” was a dude, I would run him down with my dad’s car.
Horror flicks have a vast and sprawling history of completely screwing the pooch in the last act. This is a disappointment when a film with potential fails to see a good plan through. It’s simply sad when the only aspect a movie has in its favor is the answer to the million dollar question, “Where are they going with this?” and fails to even deliver upon that sole titillation. Also known as “Dead Inside,” (I am feeling each syllable of that title after watching it), “Evil Inside” misses every opportunity presented to be more than just another shoddy little thriller.
Giving a surprisingly harrowing performance, Hannah Ward portrays disturbed lead Sarah. Her official credit for this film is under the name Lala Hensely, showing that neither the main star nor apparently the movie itself wanted to be associated with the production. Just released from a psychiatric facility where she spent an undisclosed stretch after attempting suicide in truly bizarre fashion, Sarah is staying in the family’s ominous and terribly lit home by herself. The mental health wizard who considered this an appropriate first step after hospitalization should have his/her license revoked. Or at least a refresher course in the Hippocratic Oath.
In an attempt to help her fit in with the local teens, seemingly kindhearted Lucy (Sage Howard) arrives on Sarah’s doorstep with a smattering of forgettable and obnoxious friends in tow. After a few brews and tame milquetoast laughs, the fun is brought to a cautious stop (not a screeching halt, a phrase that would oversell this) by a terrified Sarah’s vision of Lucy’s demise due to a broken neck. Her premonition is chalked up to an inappropriate attempt at humor once she quickly learns that cool points are not awarded for giving a group the collective heebie jeebies. Soon thereafter, Lucy dies just as it had been described, in an accidental tumble down the stairs. Though Sarah wasn’t near the scene, everyone blames her, locking her in the attic and then turning on one another as paranoia runs amok.
Though boasting a premise with potential, “Evil Inside” grows so deliriously far-fetched once Sarah foresees everyone’s demise in what I assume one would call a “psychic snuff montage,” it becomes laughable. A shame, given that Ward’s dark predictions are whispered eerily to the others in a scene fondly reminiscent of Regan’s party-crashing in “The Exorcist.” The rapid deaths, though dull and contrived, are sheer cinematic brilliance compared to the inane inter-couple bickering we are subjected to in the midst of surrounding carnage. “We just watched three friends die in front of us, but let’s discuss our relationship.” Trapped in a house with a possibly malevolent presence thinning out the numbers is neither the time nor the place for these issues. I assume this would be a wise practice, under the circumstances. I’m not a marriage counselor, so perhaps it isn’t my place to say.
Far too large a chunk of celluloid is spent in this excruciating limbo, with everyone hiding from one another while Sarah wanders the attic, spying vague visions in each corner. Screenwriter Jennifer Zhang, who also plays the role of whorish geek Serena, wastes precious time once the plot is in full swing under the misconception that an audience remembers why we might remotely care about these people. This is at its most perplexing when so little energy is invested in these characters at the onset. A dollop of exposition is condoned in the opening moments, but we’d damn well better give a flying fig if these stories are constantly revisited once we’re fed that first sweet taste of blood.
Guilt for these numerous mishandlings must be shared by director Pearry Teo, who wallows in aggressively arty shots instead of getting his show on the road. One sequence, following Sarah’s mass death proclamation, has to be the longest stairway ascension in film history. What begins as an effective moment dissolves into unintentional hilarity, and I still chuckle as I type this, reliving the memory. Bear in mind, this is all under employment of the cheap magician’s trick that is the final reveal. As I’d stated, given that I would never pull a Rosie O’Donnell (I still refuse to forgive that cow for spoiling “Fight Club”) and blab the twist of even the most spectacular failure, my hands are tied here. I can say, in all fairness, that if the ending of “Evil Inside” was a dude, I would throw him off a building. Someone please put that dude out of his misery.
One would be deranged to ask for a whole lot from a mild supernatural potboiler, and it can be said that “The Evil Inside” does attempt to deliver something a progressive step above the usual “slasher in a house” low-budget nonsense. Movies like this bring to mind that saying about a road paved with good intentions, and how it leads to obscurity. No, my mistake. That road leads to Hell. Six in one hand, half dozen in the other.
The Evil Inside (2011)