Hilary Kennedy, Manuel Velazquez, D.C. Lee, Gwendolynn Murphy
Jim Carroll, Jason Kerr
Hannover House (DVD)
I admit it.
I was intrigued when I was contacted through my Myspace page with the request to review "Evil Behind You," perhaps the first horror film to bill itself as being targeted at a largely Christian audience.
A Christian horror film?
Admittedly, I thought to myself "I wonder if it'll be the usual "horrible" Christian film."
As a Brethren minister, however, I am constantly on the lookout for unique and entertaining films that deal with spirituality, Christian and/or other faith traditions. While it's not uncommon for horror films to take a pseudo spiritual angle, it's pretty darn gutsy for one to out and out own the Christian angle as part of its core theme.
So, despite my reservations, I agreed to review "Evil Behind You" as it prepared for its DVD release.
"Evil Behind You" begins with an introduction from Dr. Jeremiah Powell (David Lee, who died during the film's shooting), a scientist who, in 1952, penetrated the realm that has always separated humans and demons before he inexplicably disappears without a trace.
Fast forward to present day, and "Evil Behind You" takes on an undeniable to the infinitely more horrifying "Saw" films as we are introduced to two young ladies, Debra (Gwendolynn Murphy) and Lisa (Hilary Kennedy), confined in what appears to be a basement laboratory. Nearby, Debra's husband Tony (D.C. Lee) and Lisa's boyfriend David (Manuel Velazquez) are handcuffed to makeshift operating tables.
Rather quickly, it is revealed that the men have been drugged with chemicals stolen from Dr. Lee's laboratory and the terrorists who kidnapped the couples (Muslim, of course) are awaiting the results. The results, however, become almost unbearable as the terrorists get more than they expected when demons from the spiritual realm began to materialize before their very eyes.
If what I've written about "Evil Behind You" has already made you cringe, chuckle or roll your eyes then it is clearly not a film for you. While Carroll wisely avoids the overt preachiness of many Christian films, the film's Christian themes are undeniable and its portrayal of Islam certainly guarantees the film won't be playing publicly in the Mideast anytime soon.
Being a horror/thriller flick with a central Christian component, it's important to stress that those who've become accustomed to the current horror-porn and/or shock-horror trends will be woefully disappointed even beyond the obvious moral teachings going on. "Evil Behind You" is definitely more of a thriller than a horror flick, with much of the suspense coming through the circumstances, atmosphere and dialogue.
Therein, lies the central problem behind "Evil Behind You."
There's simply no doubt that good old-fashioned horror doesn't have to be ultra-gory to be effective. A filmmaker doesn't have to resort to camera tricks or special effects to evoke a feeling of suspense, anxiety or trepidation.
An intelligent, well-constructed script can be horrifying..."Evil Behind You" isn't moronic, but it's sure not intelligent or well-constructed.
Highly skilled actors can masterfully evoke feelings of suspense, paranoia or fear...unfortunately, only Hilary Kennedy is consistently convincing among the castmembers.
Well-paced action and an effectively designed set can make virtually any scene automatically terrifying..."Evil Behind You" is too often methodical and, worst of all, occasionally lapses into downright boring line-by-line recitation during even the most anxious scenes.
Unfortunately, "Evil Behind You" ends up being more a morbid curiosity than a stellar example of the rising quality of Christian-themed cinema. Despite a stellar grassroots marketing campaign that includes a strong presence on Myspace, "Evil Behind You" ends up being more an example of old school Christian cinema (HIDDEN MESSAGE: Only watchable by diehard Christians) than an entertaining film, a crossover film or even a potential tool for evangelism.
Kudos to Carroll for attempting one of the more unique Christian-themed films I've seen and to Hilary Kennedy for her grounded, sensitive performance, however, "Evil Behind You" is destined to be left behind.
"Evil Behind You" is currently available on DVD. You can still add them as your Myspace friends, as well!
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic