My notes on The Evil In Us
Over a Fourth of July weekend, a party of young Seattleites visit a house on an island which one of their fathers has just bought – and someone brings along a designer drug that causes temporary insanity – as characterised by snarling rage, red eyes, vicious attacks, abnormal strength and cannibalism. In a way this is an update of Jeff Lieberman’s Blue Sunshine – only, in these more impatient times, it doesn’t take a decade for the homicidal side effects to kick in.
Writer-director Jason William Lee sketches in the relationships among the group of physically attractive but mostly shallow folks. Heroine Brie Armstrong (Debs Howard) is the newcomer, holds back from snorting from the bag of cocaine brought along by John (Ian Collins) – did the black kid in the gang have to be the ex-juvenile delinquent drug dealer? – but finds out that her caring boyfriend Steve (Danny Zaporozan) succumbed to the temptation to do just the one line in the bathroom when he goes red-eyed and attacks and later wrenches off his own hand to escape from being chained up. The game Howard spends the last reel with gore pouring out of her chewed cheek and limping around, clutching an axe for comfort, menaced by two or three crazies. The rest of the party-hearty kids are Bash (Behtash Faziali), Trish (Kylee Bush) and Roxanne (Marina Pasqua) who conduct themselves like born victims in an 80s slasher movie until they go feral or get gored.
With its cabin-on-an-island setting, practical gore effects and plentiful lurches into the frame, this has a throwback feel – it’s also a Canadian production that sets out to be cheeky about the United States with the national holiday setting, a subtle gag in the title (it could as easily be The Evil in the US) and a payoff montage leading up to and under the end credits which ties the outbreak to very up-to-date election year politics and resolves a sub-plot that has bubbled throughout about a sinister establishment type (Robert Leaf) conducting unethical experiments with the psycho drug on innocent victims. Also filling out the film are cutaways to a well-groomed cop (John Gillich) investigating an earlier outbreak of ultra-violence and picking up threads that lead him to arrive at the island pretty much after the show’s over – though this does allow for another dig at a well-publicised and shameful aspect of US public life.
The satirical frame is a nice touch (we get extracts from The O’Mally Exchange on Wolf News), but mostly this is an essay in the Cabin Fever cycle in which shallow, pretty folks tear into each other – their great faces, neato hair and trim bods are established lovingly early on, all the better to contrast with the way they look after they’ve had chunks bitten out of their faces, been set on fire, suffered scratching and clawing and generally abused themselves and each other. There’s a psychedelic paranoid element as we get subjective visions of the drug-takers’ friends turning into mocking, orange-hued tormentors they are compelled to attack. More impressive is the titles sequence, which makes great use of rich, thick pools of blood and an excellent theme by composer Sam Levin.