– By Sooz Webb
When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call? Why, the local Sheriffs Department of course! Responding to an incident at a frat party on Halloween night, Deputy Hancock soon realises that the pissed up reveller she’s picked up is more of a malevolent presence that she’d bargained for. And that her worries are slightly bigger than someone vomiting on the carpet.
Live-Evil starts out with an interesting premise. The partygoer with strange glowing eyes left to sleep it off in a cell, reveals herself to be a demonic entity, who can manipulate the minds of those with a weak will. It begins to psychically attack the people around it, making them believe that it’s their most hated enemy, and igniting the desire to kill within them. The Deputy seems to be the only one unaffected, but not only does she have to keep her companions in line, there’s also the teeny tiny problem of the undead rampaging throughout the town. Not just any undead mind, these ain’t shamblers. They’re pretty adept at not only overcoming obstacles, like a pesky door, but locating weapons, like a nice handy rocket launcher. So when you’re already having a pretty shitty day, these uninvited guests at your jamboree? Unwelcome at best!
Theoretically, this should be an incredibly awesome film from its premise. But when we break it down, the trouble with the plot is that there’s just too much going on. While we start off with some pretty intriguing concepts, they seem to meander off into nothingness, becoming buried in a myriad of tangents and pointless subplots. We never get a full explanation of, well anything really, and it’s pretty fair to say that I was more than a little confused at times. There’s a clear love for the genre with the inclusion of everything AND the kitchen sink, and while I respect the passion that’s clearly gone into the development of this film, I found the lack of cohesion a little disjointing. Providing a vague sense of continuity is the cast, with a particularly standout performance from Charlene Amoia. She not only brings a sense of gravitas to the craziness, but allows us to traverse through it. The combined badassery of she and her boss, played by Vladimir Kulich, is not only affirming, but a delight to behold! And, of course, there’s the appearance of the indubitably sublime Tony Todd, which is always a welcome treat on my screen, any day of the week!
Stylistically, the film is a wonder to behold. Russ De Jong’s cinematography is exceptionally appealing to the eye, beautifully captured with an art house aesthetic. It opens in black and white, with occasional flashes of colour highlighting a sense of menace and unease. Then, about halfway through, it’s transformed into glorious technicolour. While this unexplained occurrence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it adds to the continuing feeling of fragmentation, and bittiness of the cognitive whole. It does however allow us a better peep at the zomboids who’ve rocked up, looking to cause a bit of merry hell. They have an appearance reminiscent of the beings that once made Roddy Piper chew bubblegum and kick arse. And therein lies the most appealing aspect, and biggest problem of the film. Writer and director Ari Kirschenbaum pays reverent homage to our cherished favourites, and while this is greatly appreciated, there’s just too much going on to make it continuously enjoyable. We’re given these tantalising snippets of pure joy, which are quickly snatched away, as we move on to yet another plot point. The lack of focus is frustrating, as we’re never given the chance to fully appreciate what’s happening on screen. If you can detach yourself from the narrative a bit, and simply allow the visuals to wash over you, then you really are in for a blast. Combined with the Carpenter-esque score, the audio/visual gratification is superb.
Stumbling and aesthetically distinctive as the walking corpses who populate the tale, Live-Evil is simultaneously enjoyable and exasperating. For a low budget indie film, its inventiveness is outstanding, with the cast providing a solid foundation for us to invest in. The self indulgent detours will cause consternation, but disengage your brain and give into the fact that, while it may be a hot mess, Live-Evil is nonetheless entertaining.