Like football, Evil Things is a work of two halves. The first half maintains its similarity to soccer by being quite dull and populated by characters devoid of personality. The second is well set up and executed, with genuine scares.
A group of college kids are driving through a New York State snowstorm to celebrate a birthday at a vacated, and remote, family home. En route they are harassed and stalked by a black van, the driver of which is never seen. These sequences would have been more effective had they not been plagiarised from Spielberg’s Duel. Arriving at their destination, the run-in is largely forgotten in lieu of getting the fire lit and starting to drink. Fortunately writer and director Dominic Perez avoids the clichéd frat-house antics that typically ensue, and the film is better for it.
The next day the cast head out to explore the wilderness and get lost in the woods. Here a 15-minute reconstruction of The Blair Witch Project is played out, during which they become disturbed by sounds in the forest and a sense of being followed. If only they had thought to retrace their steps in the thick snow! With night fallen, they eventually find their way back to the house — and it is from this point that the film generates a surprisingly effective tension. A disembodied banging on the door delivers a videotape showing the extent to which the group has been stalked. The following scares and the sense of a home being invaded is delivered competently, albeit not to the standard of superior films such as Ils.
Evil Things is a found-footage piece and, as is often the case in this subgenre, the dialogue between the college kids appears to be semi-improvised. This occasionally leads to cluttered and meaningless exchanges, but on the whole achieves its aim of imitating amateur home video. If some of the set pieces were less derivative the film might have been more successful overall, but despite its flaws, Perez’s debut feature steers the ship to a solid finale. He resists the low-budget trend (to throw gore at the screen) in favour of psychological horror, and thus his contribution is welcome. For a budget of $20,000 a credible job was done; I have seen a lot worse made for much more money. Evil Things is therefore probably worthy of a rental list, or viewing on its inevitable Horror Channel screening.
Evil Things is available on DVD now