My notes on Another Evil (2016)
Dan (Steve Zissis), an artist who paints black circles, has become successful enough to have a new out-of-the-city ‘cabin’ (actually, an impressive house) built on a plot of land that’s been in his family a while. However, when he first takes his wife Mary (Jennifer Irwin) and teenage son Jazz (Dax Flame) to the retreat, they are bothered by supernatural phenomena – paintbrushes flung across the room or arranged in a triangle, and a crawling, disturbing spook which seems to have bright red entrails dangling from its mouth. A new agey psychic consultant (Dan Bakkedahl) pokes around and confirms that the place is haunted, but advises the family just to live with the ghost and even to think of it as a cool asset. However, Dan is still piqued and, taking a recommendation from his agent (Steve Little), calls in Os (Mark Proksch), a less laid-back spook-buster who’s willing to clean out the house. Dan and Os spend a few days at the cabin, working on the problem. Despite apparent successes, Dan starts worrying that the needy, constantly-tippling, hot-and-cold, sometimes furious, evidently desperate Os is more of a hassle to have around – and is harder to get rid of – than any ghost.
The low-key opening reel of writer-director Carson D. Mell’s debut feature Another Evil includes a couple of Japanese ghost story/Paranormal Activity-style genuine scares which establish that the protagonist’s cabin really is haunted, but this then shies away from the Amityville sub-genre to become a stalker/friend story in the tradition of The Cable Guy, Throw Momma From the Train, Chuck & Buck and Creep. Humour (and eventually horror) comes from the up and down relationship between comfortable, complacent, somewhat lugubrious Dan – an artist of no particular distinction, but well-off, happily married and a fond father – with ghost-hunter Os, who takes advantage of the haunting to latch onto a new friend, though he can barely repress envy of his new friend. Os tells stories of earlier encounters with the Devil, which set him on the warrior’s path (he claims Satan appeared as a woman and gave him gonorrhea), but also has bitter phone arguments with a wife who is divorcing him. Os suggests they celebrate the apparent exorcism of one a ghost by hiring a home visit from a stripper (Mariko Munro), then becomes resentful and passes out drunk when she rebuffs him while happily performing for Dan, who knows where the boundaries of her act are. The situation becomes so concerning that Dan fakes a ghost-banishment in a vain attempt to get rid of Os, who doubles down and begins claiming all manner of dangers from the beyond – leading to a darker finale, where the exorcist poses a threat to his supposed clients and the only help comes from a perhaps-expected but still satisfying direction.
Zissis and Proksch are alone onscreen for much of the film, and both inhabit their characters – with Proksch making Os pathetic, pitiable and yet dangerous while Zissis goes with the flow but still delivers telling little moments. Dan tells Os he has a business lunch in town to get away from him (Os is a surprisingly good, if limited chef) and Zissis has a sweet-sad moment quietly eating a sandwich on his own. Os dons a Klan-like outfit for a violent ritual, but Proksch shows how this angry little man still needs to convince himself he’s doing the right thing even as he is tempted to torture and murder. Though Bakkedahl and Little do well in showy single-scene bits, Irwin and Flame pretty much have to play token characters – if Dan’s family wasn’t so passive and enabling, his relationship with Os couldn’t develop as it does. Mell directs unshowily, concentrating on performances, but grounds the character comedy-drama in workable ghost story chills.
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