Yet more found footage horror arrives in the form of the unimaginatively titled “Evidence”, from director Howie Askins and writer/star Ryan McCoy. With the continuing success/popularity/milking of the genre now having pretty much equalled the slasher boom of the 1980s, films are inevitably struggling to add anything new to the formula, and so it’s understandable that even the most hardcore fans will find it hard to get exited at the prospect of yet another low budget outing where endangered idiots refuse to put down their cameras in the face of certain death.
Certainly, “Evidence” doesn’t start too promisingly, with McCoy out in the woods with best friend Brett and their respective girlfriends, making a documentary about nothing in particular. Soon enough, they are beset by the usual “Blair Witch Project” shenanigans, hearing noises in the night, having their tents shaken and waking up to find strange things in the tress. Tempers quickly fray and the others turn against Ryan, accusing him of orchestrating their torments in the name of his film. Things escalate, weird sights are half seen, one of their party disappears, and so on and so forth.
The painfully slow opening half of the film does try the patience, not least since none of the characters are even remotely likeable, spending most of their time complaining or being nasty to each other. With no real purpose for their being out in the woods or any motivation behind the documentary, there’s very little to hold the interest, aside from perhaps some decent camera work and atmospheric use of scenery and locations. The early frights are all clearly by the numbers, and whilst the film does successfully manage an air of isolated woodsy menace, many viewers may be sorely tempted to switch off, without even so much the feeling that director Askins is going down the slow burn chills route.
However, “Evidence” is a film definitely worth sticking with, as without wishing to give anything away, it quite suddenly undergoes a dramatic shift, picking up the pace considerably and hurtling headlong into shrieking visceral horror, very much in the first person shooter style of “Rec”. This abrupt change is unpredictable and very well handled, knocking the viewer off balance, and the film proceeds to serve up some genuinely breathless moments, packing in an impressive amount of frenetic thrills, loud hysterical screaming and gore as the characters are chased and tormented.
Askins does a great job of upping the tension, and drags the film kicking and screaming from the low budget chicanery of its first act to something unexpectedly gripping and exciting. While none of it actually makes sense or seems particularly connected to the opening acts, the film wisely avoids wasting any of its short running time trying to explain what’s going on, instead settling for thrusting the viewer right into the action, bombarding the senses and keeping the ghost train ride like shocks coming thick and fast – the excellent end credits are well worth sticking around for, going some way to build upon suggestions as to the meaning behind events.
Surviving a threateningly dull first half, “Evidence” emerges as definitely one of the best found footage films of the last few years, and one of the very few to make truly effective use of the format. Far more entertaining and exciting than any of the “Paranormal Activity” series or Hollywood “Rec” remake “Quarantine”, it’s a film which will hopefully manage to find a wider audience despite being shackled by association with the waves of inferior genre product hitting the screen – horror fans are strongly urged to check it out when it hits region 2 DVD via Showbox on 12th March.
Howie Askins (director) / Ryan McCoy (screenplay)
CAST: Ryan McCoy … Ryan
Brett Rosenberg … Brett
Abigail Richie … Abi
Ashley Bracken … Ashley
Risdon Roberts … Sara