AUGUST 21, 2013
I don't come up with too many horror movie ideas, but I had one about a slasher/survival horror hybrid centered on a bus crash that I thought was pretty good, so I was curious to see Evidence, which seemed to be along the same lines but with a found footage element, and also in the desert (mine was in the harsh winter, limiting how far anyone wanted to go from their shelter). That it wasn't a traditional found footage movie is the only reason I watched it (see HERE), though it did little to change my mind that there are more of these movies than we ever could have needed.
The gimmick here is an inspired one; it's literally about found footage, as our (traditionally shot) heroes are sifting through the evidence of a massacre, trying to figure out who their killer is before they can get too far away (if they're still alive at all). Luckily for them, nearly every person involved had a camera or a cell phone to shoot video with, and thus things like fingerprints and DNA are of no use to them - they can watch the crimes themselves and use high tech video equipment to do impossible things, like zoom in and enhance shaky/blurry cell phone footage to get a pretty clear shot of someone's name on a duffel bag, or invert the color of an image to pull shadow highlights and create a crystal clear shot of their killer. Stephen Moyer plays the cop who designed this software, and thus spends most of the movie staring at a monitor and shouting things like "Increasing the DPI detail and adding a de-blur filter!", while Radha Mitchell looks on, occasionally gasping at the sight of someone being killed (luckily, half of the people shot their own deaths, giving us a nifty perspective on the proceedings).
There are two benefits to this, the obvious one being that it doesn't have as many "Why are they filming?" moments or downtime - the bus crash occurs about 10 minutes after our first video shot (there are 10-15 minutes of setup before the found footage aspect kicks in), and things are pretty frenetic for the rest of the runtime. The other benefit is that the videos aren't edited yet, nor do they know which order they go, so we occasionally get to see things happening out of order, layering in information that we already saw other characters reacting to. I almost wish they did more with this idea, but it would probably get confusing since it's all dark (and glitched - a fire has rendered a lot of the footage corrupted), and they also make the peculiar choice to cast same sized, similar looking women to play three of the female leads (the 4th is Dale Dickey, playing yet another white trash weirdo). With a lot of the footage presented in detail-light "negative" vision (as opposed to the more traditional green-tinted "night vision", for some reason), it's often very difficult to tell which one is which, and same goes for the two not-very-imposing male characters with short hair. One died and I thought for sure it was the other guy, and then couldn't understand where he went. PLEASE, I know casting is beyond control in some cases, but you can at least give the characters plenty of accessories and hairstyles to differentiate if you're taking a lo-fi approach to the movie like this one does.
So that, the over-reliance on glitches to provide scares (via the sudden ZZZZT! noise), and the ridiculous resolution that managed to be even stupider than the intentionally dumb one I theorized as a joke (that Moyer was the killer and did all this to show off his awesome "Enhance!" skills*), unfortunately kills what could have been a cool movie, and certainly one that extended "found footage" lease on life for another month or so. In fact, one might recall another movie that blended mock-doc and traditional footage, which also had a lot of promise but was sunk due to lousy execution - The Fourth Kind, and they might do without even realizing that it's from the same director: Olatunde Osunsanmi. He didn't write it this time, but it's almost criminal how he seemed to have learned nothing from last time - both films suffer from a failed attempt to make the footage and the narrative scenes equally compelling. With no personal stakes in the case and almost zero time spent developing them, there's no real reason to care much about Moyer/Mitchell's story, and since the killer isn't threatening to strike again or whatever, it doesn't make much of a difference if they solve the case or not.
Likewise, since it's after the fact, it's obvious to anyone who's ever seen a movie before that one of the two (unnamed for an hour or so) survivors is the killer, limiting the options as there isn't a big cast to begin with and two of them are dead almost as soon as they arrive at the junkyard. A lengthy chunk of the movie is devoted to figuring out Dickey's character and listing her husband as a suspect, but this is just a waste of time, something Osunsanmi (or screenwriter John Swetnam) must have realized himself as it ends on a shrug with 25 minutes of the movie to go. Hilariously, Dickey's character seemingly teleports onto the bus (despite filming everything, her arrival is MIA, though the final twist could explain this if you want to put some thought into it/give the killer's intelligence even more credit), and rarely interacts with the cast (her big scene is a self shot bit in a bathroom mirror), so lopping her and her husband's storyline out of the movie entirely wouldn't take much effort, nor would it make any difference to anything but the runtime.
Oh well. It's not unwatchable, but with the gimmick mostly just providing frustration and the mystery a complete bust, there isn't much to recommend here beyond the gonzo kills (the killer uses a blowtorch to dismember one victim - points for creativity!); Moyer and Mitchell are both engaging performers but they were clearly only hired for 1-2 days' work, so fans of theirs will walk away disappointed by their limited screentime. Even the similar Surveillance at least kept me more engaged before getting to its own (somewhat obvious) ending, and that had a weirdo threeway scene to boot.
What say you?