OUR EVIL ****
Directed by Samuel Galli. Starring Ademir Esteves, Ricardo Casella, Luara Pepita, Maria Galves, Maysa Pettes. Brazil 2017 89 mins.
Certificate: 18 - Out on DVD from Matchbox Films on 26th December 2017
Writer-director Samuel Galli’s feature debut is a Brazilian horror film of modest production values and impressive power. It pivots around a memorably unfashionable and underplayed “hero”, Ademir Esteves’ Arthur, an ordinary-looking, Fedora-wearing, middle-aged guy who, for reasons initially unknown, is clearly fearful of his daughter Michelle’s (Luara Pepita) upcoming 20th birthday. He has a kind face and a touchingly sentimental streak, and our introduction to him is via the first of the film’s unusual elements: a dialogue-free opening 13 minutes.
The non-linear narrative unfolds over different time periods so that, at the outset, we have no idea why Arthur is browsing the internet for assassins and watching a graphic video of a bound young woman on a gurney being scalped and shot in the head as “research”. Subsequently, he meets with misanthropic hit man Charles (Ricardo Casella) at a low rent bar where the manic face of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance stares out from one of the walls. Arthur has very specific instructions about what he wants, and Charles is offering $3000 a head (“$2000 for children”, he adds, disconcertingly) for the deed itself.
“I deal in meat…” asserts the quietly terrifying Charles at a key point in OUR EVIL, with actor Casella offering a low key but distinctively banal portrait of evil. Making it clear that he doesn’t do his job for the money (he clearly gets off on it), Charles is casually capable of extreme brutality and this film of many shifting tones and parallel character studies observes – with relative discretion – him picking up a pair of attractive young hookers, whom he murders while a disarmingly mundane pop song plays on the soundtrack.
The positioning of this explosion of violence echoes the film’s consistent fascination for the juxtaposition of cruelty with tenderness. A birthday party sequence between Arthur and his loving daughter offers an intimacy rarely found in this genre, and alarmingly precedes as sequence of bloody savagery: the harshly depicted slaughter itself immediately followed by the perpetrator of the carnage ordering a pizza.
When the film’s secrets are ultimately out of the bag, its influences evidently range far and wide, from THE SIXTH SENSE to KILL LIST, though the approach and style sets it apart from the typical bandwagon-riders. Around 45 minutes in, a sharp shift into overt supernatural horror is nonetheless still countered by human drama: the poignant bond between Arthur and Michelle is as important to the narrative as the more conventional gory / shocking paranormal stuff.
It’s visually unadventurous, but smart choices are made, including an important scene conveyed via scenes of Arthur talking straight to camera like a documentary talking head. The climax offers full-tilt arm chewing gore and a ferocious demon, but it too is juxtaposed with a sense of vast personal loss resulting from a lifetime spent waiting for the inevitable. As emotionally involving as it is visceral, OUR EVIL offers a satisfying alternative to the considerable, interchangeable genre fare dealing with similar subjects.
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