Starring Debs Howard, Ian Collins, Danny Zaporozan, Behtash Faziali, Kylee Bush
Directed by Jason William Lee
Screened at FrightFest 2016
Doting girlfriend Brie (Howard) accompanies boyfriend Steve (Zaporozan) on a secluded getaway with a bunch of Steve’s old friends – finding herself the odd one out when it comes to the established (if rusty) social dynamic between the group. Standing out amongst the gang is ex-felon John (Collins), who’s partial to more than a little drug use, and also appears to be incredibly on edge.
Sadly, these friendships won’t last the night as a batch of cocaine that John has brought along – and subsequently shares with the group – is tainted with some kind of biological compound… one which turns the user into a snarling, red-eyed and indiscriminately violent ‘rage zombie’. With everyone around her lapsing into uncontrollable rage states, Brie must fight off her former friends and try to get out alive.
For all its surface simplicity, Jason William Lee’s The Evil in Us has plenty going on with which to keep your attention. Besides the main narrative of the bunch of friends slaughtering each other, Lee also introduces a city cop on the trail of John and the infected drugs (following another brutal party disaster) and a further subplot involving a secretive group who appear to be developing and testing the nasty compound at the centre of things.
The cast aren’t tasked with any particularly heady drama, but their performances are sound and the group dynamic believable – as is the central relationship (and the biggest dramatic arc) between Brie and Steve. The cop sequences back in the city, however, leave something to be desired with occasionally stilted dialogue and a rushed feel to them, leading to a strange disconnect from the mayhem where the quality of filmmaking feels distinctly lower.
That’s not to say that these sequences have little bearing on the story – they most certainly do (if not quite as satisfying an influence as expected), alongside a shady political subtext that Lee takes great delight in not overplaying until he’s ready to reveal his hand.
It’s clever, and this time away from the more personal horror at the holiday cabin offers a compelling thread that’ll keep you hooked in the search for answers. Throw in a few fun red herrings (Lee clearly enjoying himself in that regard), plenty of gore-soaked brutality and excellent practical effects and The Evil in Us winds up being a solid, undemanding watch for fans of the genre.
A rabid cross of Cabin Fever and 28 Days Later, The Evil in Us gets the bloody job done with a minimum of fuss – though despite a number of good ideas and a sly, politically relevant ending it’s unlikely to stand out too much given the basic nature of its characters.
Had the dramatic ramifications of turning on – and being forced to defend yourself against – your closest friends been explored with greater gravitas, we may have been looking at a potential new genre darling. That’s not to be, though… but in this case it’s perfectly okay, as The Evil in Us remains a worthy contender for your time.