Editor’s Note: Evidence opens in limited release tomorrow, July 19th, and is now available on VOD
“We need to see the details, the relationships,” protests Detective Reese, the ostensible hero of Evidence, when a colleague suggests they skip the scenes of friendly banter that open the home video which acts as their primary insight into the circumstances leading to a gruesome mass murder. As it is for the investigation of crime, so too is it for the enjoyment of cinema, and the movie’s own paltry lack of details and relationships is its instant undoing as it tosses us headlong into the peculiar cross-breed of found footage horror and sub-CSI that constitutes its bipartite narrative. It’s telling that Reese, ostensibly the hero of the film, is given his first titbit of character definition just fifteen minutes before the credits roll: he and the lesser characters who surround him are but afterthoughts heaped atop the script’s generic mix.
But innovation alone does not a good movie make, and the separation of the narrative into two stylistically and generically distinct halves does little to excuse the egregious laziness that follows as each descends into the basest clichés and barest essentials of their respective formulae.
That script, adapted by John Swetnam from his own 2011 short, isn’t a bad one, at least conceptually. Oversaturation has forced found footage filmmakers toward innovation to stand out from the crowd, and Swetnam’s conceit of making us privy to the actual finding itself—all too often curiously absent in these movies, Sinister being a notable recent exception—is enough to abate, at least initially, the typical found footage frustration. But innovation alone does not a good movie make, and the separation of the narrative into two stylistically and generically distinct halves does little to excuse the egregious laziness that follows as each descends into the basest clichés and barest essentials of their respective formulae.
More of the plot is given to the found footage side, whose conspicuous excuse for constant filming is the directorial aspirations of the camerawoman as she joins friends on a bus to Las Vegas. This is the movie we’ve seen a dozen times a year across the last decade, the bus breaking down at an abandoned town with just enough dim corridors and loud doors to ensure a crawling pace punctuated by jump scares. Now and then, we zoom back from the frame to find ourselves in the midst of the detectives’ investigation, as they replay scenes frame by frame to find some hidden detail. These sequences, featuring Stephen Moyer and Radha Mitchell, are no more original than those they enclose, their blend of high-resolution revelations and tiresomely trite dialogue—“I am gonna nail this bastard!”—doing little to differentiate them from every crime procedural on television.
Inventive direction can only get the movie so far, however; Osunsanmi is fighting a losing battle and he knows it, his resignation of the aesthetic to conventionality nothing if not an admission of defeat.
Two films for the price of one is only an enthusing prospect when either is any good, which certainly can’t be said for Evidence as it switches between its equally uninventive halves. At least the tedium of Swetnam’s script finds some balance in its direction under The Fourth Kind’s Olatunde Osunsanmi. He brings some level of visual flair to proceedings, his extravagant opening shot a particular example as the camera swoops over the Nevadan hills to reveal the bloody crime scene, which it progresses to investigate in impressive freeze-frame tableaux. Inventive direction can only get the movie so far, however; Osunsanmi is fighting a losing battle and he knows it, his resignation of the aesthetic to conventionality nothing if not an admission of defeat.
There’s a point, arriving a little past the halfway mark, where the film seems almost ready to tie together its strands to a more conclusive whole as the footage is leaked and labelled a snuff film in the media. Conceptions of construction and interpretation of the filmed image are raised here, conceptions which are—largely—passed over for examination in favour of a series of revelations engineered to shock and stun. But how can they when all along the details and relationships, Detective Reese’s old friends, have been so background? Evidence is a film that could stand to operate on the advice of its own characters, or at least to pay them a little attention every now and then.
[notification type=”star”]42/100 ~ BAD. Evidence is a film that could stand to operate on the advice of its own characters, or at least to pay them a little attention every now and then.[/notification]