After sitting through this awful flick, I immediately set to scouring the internet to see if there were other people who were as befuddled by its needlessly incoherent ending as I was. Instead, I kept finding references that claimed Let’s Be Evil was very positively received among critics, and I can’t imagine that for the life of me how this is possible. We here at Swampflix are generally pretty forgiving of flaws, and a look back through the archives will show a multitude of reviews where we overlook a film’s cheapness, histrionic acting, and poor plotting in order to exalt something that we find praiseworthy. That being said, the fact that anyone, anywhere, got anything positive out of this film is incomprehensible to me.
The film follows the narrative of Jenny (Elizabeth Morris, who was one of the film’s writers and is not a professional actress, and boy does it show), a woman whose mother is suffering from a deteriorating disease. Jenny has taken a job as a kind of camp counselor/teacher’s aide for a strange underground (literally) project that involves minding groups of genius children as they work with augmented reality glasses on various scientific… things. Like most of the film, this is never satisfactorily explained. She’s joined by Antigone/”Tiggs” (Kara Tointon) and Darby (Elliot James Langridge), who are as bland and underwritten as Jenny is. There’s some sexual tension that’s surprisingly difficult to follow, but the real point of this subterranean setting is that it requires all of the characters to wear the aforementioned special glasses in order to see, and allows the director to shoot a fair number of scenes in the first person, as if through these lenses.
This gimmick is not a bad creative decision in and of itself, but the story that is strung together in order to pave the way for this conceit to take over the film’s aesthetic “vision” is not only bad; it’s boring. There’s a kernel of an interesting narrative device here, but the shepherding of the plot toward the use of the goggles doesn’t congeal as a sensible narrative. The opening scene, in which a man is shot in his shower so that his daughter can be kidnapped, leaps off the screen with its visual dynamism, but the film takes an immediate nosedive in cinematic quality. By the time that the goggles are introduced, the dimly lit underground corridors and visually uninteresting classrooms are all that fill the screen for the rest of the run-time, and they’re incongruous with the tense, freaky atmosphere the film seems to think it’s creating.
To be honest, I sometimes worry that I give too much about a film away in my reviews (especially after a friend confronted me about spoiling Anomalisa for him, which is why the spoilers in, for instance, Pet have great big blaring signs around them), but I can’t really help it; it’s the academic in me. There’s not really a risk of that happening with this film, though, because protracted sections of the film pass in which nothing of consequence happens. Of course, saying that gives the impression that there are sections of the film in which something of consequence happens, but that’s not entirely accurate either. Over the years, if I’ve learned anything about myself, it’s that I can’t stand a fever dream movie with no point to it (see also: Spontaneous Combustion) as opposed to the use of confusion as a functioning stylistic choice (see also: Paperhouse); Let’s Be Evil doesn’t qualify for this criticism exactly, but it comes close enough to warrant mentioning, as the film builds to a “crescendo” of nonsense that might be meaningful if the film made any sense at all, but it instead treads water in a slowly-moving stream, before going over a waterfall that comes out of nowhere. Don’t bother. If you’ve ever seen movie in which a person crawling through air vents and watched someone playing a first person shooter for ten minutes before, you’ve already seen this and seen it better.
-Mark “Boomer” Redmond