Tuesday, September 29

Evilution (2008)

Lock your door.

Directed by Chris Conlee
92 minutes / Black Gate Entertainment / Official Website

A scientist, Darren Hall (Eric Peter-Kaiser), somehow escapes an emergency eradication of a U.S. military base in Iraq (blamed on a suicide bomber in the newspapers) after a sudden outbreak of undead ravenous soldiers from a weaponized "intelligent" contagion he helped create. Darren still has a vial of what he deems as a "potentially" dangerous chemical and knows the military will try to track him down. He takes refuge in the basement of a decrepit apartment complex dubbed The Necropolitan which seems to have its own eerie history. A mixing pot of clientele inhabits the building and Darren soon falls into a budding relationship with a beautiful girl by the name of Mandy (Sandra Ramírez) and strikes up an uneasy acquaintance with a trio of Latino gangbangers.

Darren resumes his studies with the deadly neon orange solution on lab mice, despite the military sending a tough-as-nails sergeant (Gabriel, Tim Colceri) to recover him and the contagion, but finds a human test subject to re-animate when the head of the thugs is shot to death right outside the building. The injection takes, somewhat, with the shooting victim popping back to the land of the living...just a bit twitchy and glassy-eyed lethargic. Unfortunately for mankind, a local junkie (a very Sex Pistols-channeled Billy Morrison) walks right into Darren's unlocked pad as he's away "busy" with Mandy and takes the vial looking for a fix. Soon enough, both the infected junkhead and gangbanger are roaming the halls out for the blood of fresh victims, Gabriel corners Darren at gunpoint, The Necropolitan's odd manager couldn't care less, and worse-of-all Mandy is defenseless upstairs. Can Darren and company halt the lunatic dead before the human race falls to the hatred of Evilution?

Chris Conlee's Evilution snaps well into the often ballyhooed "sub-of-a-subgenre" of the speedy undead in predominantly slow zombiedom. So those with this strange aversion to running rot might want to step in with caution. Also those expecting a military-themed horror flick based on the poster art above and trailer (seen here) might find themselves solely disappointed. Though saying that, this slice of brain-free splattery fun has some very positive qualities apart from some rough patches.

Taking on the rocky issues first; the film is hobbled initially by several pressing questions surrounding our protagonist right from the get-go. How did Darren survive what looked like all-encompassing destruction of the base bombing? How did he end up at the apartment complex all the way from Iraq? What's up with the overtly creepy nature of The Necropolitan and its forcefully facetious caretaker (a wonderfully deadpan Nathan Bexton)? I probably just have OCD, but these questions bugged the hell out of me throughout. At times, I even thought pre-explosion Darren and post-explosion Darren were two different people, as he uses an alias in with the apartment occupants. Lastly, the film isn't exactly original being a hodgepodge of ideas and situations we've seen before (touches of Demons, Re-Animator, 28 Days Later, Resident Evil)--usually done better--but isn't that usually the case?

The good attributes are what pulls Evilution ahead of a good portion of other indie zombo endeavors. Eric Peter-Kaiser's Darren is likable in that bushy five 'o clock shadow John Krasinski-way with a touch of Jeffrey Combs as a man frustrated by the misunderstanding of his creation. Sandra Ramírez turns in an excellent performance as Mandy, perhaps the best of everyone, projecting an approachable infatuation for Darren with ease. This is especially impressive considering the scenes concerning their relationship are few and all her character is really based on is TIVO (you'll see). It's always nice to see a older tough guy come in and kick a ton of zombie ass and Tony Colceri's Gabriel looks like a case-hardened bulldog and even delivers a neck-breaking Stone Cold Stunner while using his body as a melee weapon during a quick hallway fist-to-decay battle. Also getting most of the funniest wisecracks (how do you know what ass popcorn tastes like?) are Noel Gugliemi and his on-screen gang cohorts Guillermo Díaz and James Duval. Also Jonathan Breck, or the man behind the mask in the Jeepers Creepers films, has a small role as Gabriel's commanding officer.

Aside from the performances, first time feature length director but long time editor Conlee and cinematographer Mathew Rudenberg do a great job of appropriately individualizing each sequence so as not to make the entire film feel blandly uniform. The best example is a warmly sensual yet tasteful lovemaking scene between Darren and Mandy being intercut with the Junkie in some dank and stark recess of the complex shooting up his final fix amongst the mouth-breathers. Brian J. Cavanaugh's editing is also snappy never seeming to drag and the action sequences are cut frantic but not to a degree you have no idea which direction is up. Alan Howarth's score even vaguely quotes John Harrison's hollow drum beats in Romero's Day of the Dead. I could have used more infected bloodlust (never enough), but what's present is thankfully devoid of shoddy CG. Big raspberry jam jars of practical splat explode and gush with glee; so there's no need to worry.

Despite the flaws, this is one hell of an entertaining ride and even with my initial reservations of seeing yet another undead indie; I'm glad I gave it a whirl. Great gore anchored by spirited performances and it's always nice to see no campy laughs shoehorned in merely to cover up or make up for any deficiencies. Just a straight up effort that aims to keep your ass planted in your seat.

Evilution will be available from BrinkDVD on DVD featuring a commentary by director Conlee with stars Kaiser and Ramírez and making-of featurette this coming November 17th, 2009.

1 comment:

Chris Conlee said...

Nice review. Thanks.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?

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