Released by indie distributor Phase 4 Films on May 6th through VOD and DVD channels, Richard Gray's The Evil Within (a change from its original title of Mine Games) is a fairly standard issue indie horror flick that satisfies mostly on the strength of its better than expected ensemble cast, with special kudos to Briana Evigan, the film's most familiar name and likely familiar to you from her presence in Step Up 2: The Streets.
Given its original title of Mine Games, it shouldn't surprise you that much of The Evil Within occurs within a mine. It should also be noted that despite sharing a name, it shouldn't be confused with the video game of the same name. Despite its lack of connection to the video game, The Evil Within does actually look and feel like many of the teen horror flicks that preceded it.
While there's a decent idea desperately trying to rise to the surface, The Evil Within is bogged down by a script that frequently doesn't make sense, even for an indie horror film, and frequently goes in circles that increasingly become nonsensical. While the cast tries to make the best of it, there's this sense in the film that they reached a point of realizing it was a lost cause.
The film centers around a group of friends who travel to a cabin the woods (really!) only to have their vehicle break down (really!). So, of course, they decide to hoof it and arrive at what they believe to be the correct cabin. It isn't long before something doesn't feel right (Can we say Mr. Obvious?) and, to top it all off, one particularly fragile member of the group, Michael (Joseph Cross), is off his medications and starting to show it.
The Evil Within starts off slowly, which feels like an artistic choice by Aussie director Gray, but really picks up after the group discovers a mine where, you guessed it, strange things happen.
You may remember Gray as the runner-up in 2010's Project Greenlight for his film Summer Coda. While I certainly don't doubt Gray's talent, and there are definite signs of it here, The Evil Within has a script that still needed major reworking and leaves the cast hanging out there with nothing compelling or convincing to do. While certain actors can make "nothing" at least interesting to watch, for the type of cast you typically find in an indie horror film it's never a good sign.
Briana Evigan, as noted, is one of the highlights here. As you'll recall, that certainly wasn't the case for her appearance for her turn in Step Up 2: The Streets, but the young actress is improving and she seems to have a knack for the indie horror vibe. Julianna Guill, a veteran of the Friday the 13th series, also seems to have a clue exactly what's supposed to be unfolding here even though her character's secondary arc doesn't add much to the goings on. On the weak end, Rafi Gavron flounders without a sense of direction and Rebecca Da Costa cross the line into the campy vibe just a bit too much.
While I'm not above giving a break to most indie horror flicks, and I actually really love the indie horror scene, with a production budget said to be at a solid $1.5 million this is definitely a decently funded flick that should have been able to result in a better product. If indie horror is you thing, it may be worth a view but The Evil Within is definitely a film you can live without.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic