In many ways, Our Evil, from first-time feature director and writer Samuel Galli, is a perfect debut. Cramming an ever-evolving creeping beast into 90 mins is no easy feat, but Galli seems determined to show off genre mastery and cinematic competence in equal measure. That, whilst putting the audience through one of the most bittersweet Indy horror experiences of 2017.
Arthur (Ademir Esteves) is a loving father who dotes on his daughter. Charles (Ricardo Casella) is a sadistic assassin-for-hire who records brutal snuff films for dark web viewers. The two cross paths and from there, things don't go exactly as planned for one of them. It's a tough film to abbreviate since it relies so heavily on surprise but that's it in a nutshell.
What starts somewhere south of gruelling evolves into a studied portrait in pain, and finally into a possession flick. It's a three-act film in which each act delivers another horror subgenre. For some, that'll prove a refreshing three-course meal in contemporary horror cinema. For others, that twisting narrative could be a bit too spontaneous. There is a commendable, if vaguely desperate, desire to be fresh which perhaps sacrifices cohesiveness.
But what Our Evil lacks in cohesiveness it makes up for in slow-burn intrigue and ambitious genre-wary reveals. Genre theory aside, it's a genuinely eerie film too, punctuated by a handful of vicious gut-punches and an overall sense of dread.
Galli matches his tightly wound story with suitably tight direction, no time is wasted, except perhaps in the finale, but nothing feels rushed either. It's a careful and domestic kind of horror story somewhere between the likes of William Friedkin and Nicholas McCarthy. It's subdued, family-centric, flashbacks are integral, and the nasty bits are Nasty.
It's important to note that the first act's torture porn scenes are disturbingly cruel but pointedly so. Once it's made its point Our Evil goes on to argue that it's not exploitative trash. Online snuff tapes and a sadistic hitman orbit around the quiet foundation of a surprisingly forward-thinking possession story.
In the same way, The Eyes of my Mother lyrically unpacked a host of classic horror films, Our Evil provides the same elegiac reinterpretation of popular possession films, approaching them from a kind of postmodern kamikaze vigilante angle.
An intriguing debut feature with a great sense of mystery, Our Evil keeps you wondering whilst pushing you deeper into murky waters. Lead actor Ademir Esteves is a superbly muted guide through this satanic long-game whilst Ricardo Casella is a pristinely realised human monster. That finale twist reveals gleefully, if a little abruptly, that Galli knows exactly what he's doing. Our Evil is a tightly wound smorgasbord showcasing a looming horror talent.
OUR EVIL / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SAMUEL GALLI / STARRING: ADEMIR ESTEVES, FERNANDO CARDOSO, RICARDO CASELLA, REINALDO COLMANETTI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW