Director: Carson Mell
Writer: Carson Mell
Producer: Sebastian Pardo, Riel Roch-Decter
Stars: Steve Zissis, Mark Proksch, Jennifer Irwin, Dax Flame, Dan Bakkedahl, Steve Little
Exorcising the ghosts haunting his family’s vacation home leads one man into an odd relationship with a paranormal investigator.
Unusual problems require unusual solutions. And unusual solutions tend to be provided by unusual personalities.
Dan discovers this firsthand when his family’s mountain cabin vacation home reveals two uninvited guests from the afterlife, one of whom is an unsightly hag with a bloody mass weighing down her lower jaw. Joey Lee, a paranormal investigator so informal about his trade that he dresses like the unkempt yoga instructor in line at Jamba Juice, says the spirits are benevolent and belong in the house. Kicking them out would be like giving the boot to a relative minding his own business in the basement. Dan doesn’t care. He wants a second opinion.
That’s when Dan meets ghost hunter Os. Os’ investigation identifies the entities as EFDs, or Evil Fully Determined. Now this is a diagnosis Dan can get behind. Unfortunately, Dan now has to spend four days alone with the odd man while they work to exorcise literal demons. And Os uses the opportunity to unburden himself of some figurative demons by cornering Dan into a forced friendship of circumstance.
Os is the type of guy who mostly means well in spite of social awkwardness, so Dan can’t really be upfront about his annoyance over the man’s intrusive presence. Tolerance turns into a bit of brotherly bonding for a time, but a point comes when Dan’s discomfort outlasts Os’ welcome. Trouble is, Os isn’t willing to leave until the ghosts do.
“Another Evil” is the feature film directorial debut of Carson Mell, whose credits include penning several episodes of the TV series “Eastbound & Down” and “Silicon Valley.” Don’t expect a similar sort of broad laugh comedy, however. For that matter, in spite of its premise, don’t expect a typical horror film, either. In fact, don’t expect anything typical at all.
“Another Evil” is a character-driven dramedy about an uncomfortable union between two unlikely men, riding a mild-mannered mood somewhere between the lunacy of “What About Bob?” and the chills of “Creep” (review here). The film is more quietly quirky than either of those examples though, mixing a peculiar blend of dark drama, calm comedy, and a hint of horror that doesn’t play nice with easily categorized labels.
Its subdued style means “Another Evil” is not the type of movie likely to garner strictly binary responses of “love it” or “hate it.” Like Os, the film takes some getting used to, and requires spending time soaking up its unorthodox company before forming an opinion. Even then, you still might not be entirely certain what to make of it.
Yea or nay opinions hinge on how well one relates to the understated complexity of Os and Dan’s symbiotic arc. That in turn comes down to personal preference for their personalities, as co-leads Steve Zissis and Mark Proksch give everything they’ve got to make casual characterizations compelling.
By a funny coincidence, I binge-watched some of “Better Call Saul” during the weekend prior to screening “Another Evil.” After two episodes from the second season, I remarked in different words, “this supporting actor stands out as impressive without overtly overtaking any scene. I want to see more of him in another role.” That actor happens to be Mark Proksch. If you enjoy Proksch as Daniel ‘Pryce’ Wormald on “Better Call Saul,” the part-time drug dealer and full-time baseball card collector with a penchant for banana yellow Hummers, know that he is just as wonderfully weird as Os in “Another Evil.”
Writer/director Carson Mell’s exploration of Os and Dan’s uneasy alliance is an experiment in character study through casually dry humor. They are an odd couple, but they are not Oscar and Felix. The droll dichotomy between them births introspection instead of hijinks. You won’t find the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme playing underneath anything onscreen here.
The start is slow. Aside from an occasional curl of a corner of my mouth, I didn’t fully laugh until about the half-hour mark, as it takes that first third of the film for the tone to sink in. The deliberate demureness of its comedic touches makes “Another Evil” an acquired taste blocked by design from mass appeal. The interest level of an impatient audience thus waxes and wanes in step with a tight two-person interplay taking its time to unfold. Particularly down the back third when, having developed their relationship as far as it can go, the film slows again down the denouement before breaking into an unexpected climax likely to leave some nonplussed at the resolution.
As already indicated, don’t look at “Another Evil” as a horror movie. And don’t go in looking for laugh out loud hilarity. Think of the film as the moviegoing equivalent of catching up on the couch through conversation over a beer. “Another Evil” is that kind of a restrained experience.
Review Score: 65