an advice to would-be horror filmmakers: never, ever start your film off with a
quote from the bible. This is, without a doubt, the single biggest cliché for a
horror movie since the dawn of cinema. I'm sure in prehistoric times some
caveman started his cave paintings off with a quote from the bible, too, and
even then it was considered terribly cliché. First impressions are everything,
and one second post-bible quote, I had a sinking feeling "Evil's City"
was not going to wow me. Alas, the actual film proper does nothing to dispel
that first impression.
"Evil's City" opens with college
reporters Amber (Kathryn Carner) and Courtney (Laura Mazur) battling for
the same story at a crime scene. Later, the feuding Lois Lane wannabes
decide to take separate trips out of their native L.A. into the
countryside in search of a legendary town called Acheron, aka Evil's
City. Although how a "town" became a "city" is a
mystery only writer/director Tom Lewis can answer; then again, it could
just be that "Evil's Town" didn't sound menacing enough in the
ads. In any case, Lewis must have really thought hard and long about the
name of his ghost town, because the word "Acheron" gets
mentioned about 6000 times in the first 10 minutes, then 10,000 more
times throughout the rest of the film. Really, the number of times
people mention "Acheron" is astounding.
As low-budget horror movies to, "Evil's
City" is run-of-the-mill stuff, and as such is no better or worst
than the usual crop one finds in the genre. As per usual, the leads are
all "big city" people, and everyone else are stereotypical
"rednecks", a word these films throw around like city folk
downing $10 bottled spring water and calling it more "watery".
(That last joke brought to you courtesy of stand-up comedian Jim
Gaffigan.) Of the conventional roles, there's the loyal boyfriend (or in
this case, ex-boyfriend), the tough (but terribly abrasive) heroine, a
bitchy rich girl (who proves to be not all that bitchy, really), and two
or three Red Shirters to provide bodycount fodder. Later, some Army guys
show up to get possessed and wear demon make-up and fun is had by all.
The film's first 20 minutes or so is nothing to
crow about, but once the action shifts inside (or near) the abandoned
ghost town of Acheron, the look changes favorably. Lewis washes out the
screen by getting rid of white colors and brightness, leaving the screen
with a drab, blue-ish tint. While the film actually looks quite good for
the budget at hand, the story is just not very well thought out. The
ghost town doesn't look all that "ghostly", and for a town
that is so old it became part of "the legends" (another much
uttered line in the film), it looks extremely contemporary, leaving the
audience to wonder why everyone keeps talking about Acheron as if it was
some kind of Arthurian-era town.
There's a lot of action in the second half, but
since most of it is shot at night, and couple that with Lewis' decision
to gloss everything that takes place in Acheron over with the dark
contrast look, it's next to impossible to see what's happening. There is
some gore, a lot of prosthetic demon make-up, but there's a certain
amateurish quality to the action scenes. Lewis also makes a bad decision
to add poor CGI effects to certain scenes, in particular the flaming
wall near the end. Lewis and company also inserts faux "gunshot
sparks" in post-production when the soldiers fire their weapons.
It's not very convincing, made doubly worst because they're also
As with most movies made in the last few years, there's
a Big Twist at the end that doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense.
That is, if you cared about such things. But as this is a genre entry,
one can easily forgive such lack of logic. Still, it seemed as if the
entire film is a build-up to the Big Twist, which makes almost
everything that preceded it somewhat moot.
City" also has decent actors on the roster, even though lead Laura
Mazur's character, as written, is sometimes insufferably annoying. The
character is supposed to give in to her darker instincts once they reach
Acheron, but Mazur plays the character as so abrasive that you're more
apt to punch her in the face to shut her up rather than do whatever you
can to save her soul from evil's reach. Also, Kathryn Carner's bitchy
Amber, set up from frame one as "the rich bitch", actually
turns out not to be so bitchy. Either Carner can't play bitchy very
well, or Lewis should have switch Carner with Mazur, who seems to have a
handle on not being very likeable. As the male lead, the very buff
Brandon Largent is somewhat miscast, especially since his Harding is
required to acquiesce much of the time to Courtney's aggressive
Perhaps the biggest problem with "Evil's
City" is that it's just not very interesting. There's some style
here, and the actors are not the usual band of hopeless amateurs. Even
so, it's hard to get excited about "Evil's City", especially
during the long and dull 20-minute set up. Even when the action shifts
to Acheron, the film still can't shake that stagnate, "blah"
feeling. Maybe a more interesting script, or perhaps more action in the
beginning, would have helped to stave off boredom. While by no means a
bad movie, I can't say with any justification if "Evil's City"
is good. It's just…there.