EVIDENCE Can't Quite Separate Its Mysteries From Its Clues!
Aug 26, 2013
With as many ‘found footage’ films that have been done in the past two decades, I can imagine it would be pretty hard to come up with some angle that would seem fresh much less inventive or inspired; but EVIDENCE – to its credit – does try to eek out some additional mileage from the unique narrative format. Instead of exploring either horror or the paranormal (two genres so prevalent linked with ‘found footage’), director Olatunde Osunsanmi and screenwriter John Swetnam go for broke with the police procedural, utilizing the captured footage from camcorders, security tapes, and/or cell phones for investigators trying to piece together what may or may not have happened in some bloody rampage.
Unfortunately – like Icarus – they flew a bit too close to the sun when concocting their cinematic nightmare, inadvertently stripping away what makes ‘found footage’ so unique by instead fashioning a whodunit that makes about as much sense as … well … as trying to conceive an entire police procedural in the guise of a ‘found footage’ motion picture. It doesn’t fail perfectly … but, then again, whatever does?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Police detectives Burquez (the lovely Radha Mitchell) and Reese (TRUE BLOOD’s Stephen Moyer) realize they’re likely dealing with a psychopath on the loose when they discover an abandoned gas station housing five brutal murders. The press are demanding answers, but all the investigators have are a series of video and cell phone cameras that apparently have captured the bloodshed from a variety of angles and vantage points. Can they piece together what happened before the crazed, torch-wielding lunatic strikes again? They’d better, or else there’ll be hell to pay!
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the premise behind EVIDENCE. At its core, it’s little more than a procedural – albeit one with a bloated understanding of the involved science – that cleverly pushes the bounds of believability mostly because no one has the smarts to ask, “Why is it that the killer somehow managed to trap every needed clue on tape? Was that really the best course of action … or was this fool simply dying to be caught?” Of course, therein lies the story’s fatal rub – just WHO was dying to get caught? – that Burquez and Reese never quite see past; as such, one could easily assume they’re destined to fail (and fail miserably) from the beginning.
As a character drama (which it is mildly), John Swetnam’s script raises a lot of minor issues – Why was Reese suspended or on leave? What is Burquez’s background, and why does her Brooklyn-esque accent fade in and out? Why is it a torch cutter can seemingly stretch miles (I exaggerate) away from its source tanks without failing? – that never get a clear explanation. Sure, there are some hints (Reese’s daughter met an untimely demise we learn in the last act), but is that why he was on a leave of absence from the force? One could argue that there are other hints that never get suitable answers, nor definitive exploration, and that’s why EVIDENCE leaves many clues still on the table.
For as hard as it tries, the film is no THE USUAL SUSPECTS told with a contemporary twist (the ‘found footage’ conceit). There are plenty of sparks in its narrative engine – the two very different casts (one in the footage, one in the film's real-time element) clearly have a lot of fun with the material they’ve been provided – but, in the final summation, there’s quite a bit here that just isn’t properly unearthed. Alas, the ending smacks of almost desperate invention, and I would’ve expected a bit more from the last reveal than what’s inevitably delivered.
Director Osunsanmi is no stranger to the ‘found footage’ picture. In 2009, he explored THE FOURTH KIND, a paranormal mystery involving alleged alien abduction. Alas, that film ended up being mired in some controversy, as Osunsanmi – who helped pen the script – insisted on marketing the film as if it were a documentary tied to an exact exploration of the events as they occurred, going so far as to suggest that one of his actresses was indeed the original victim of a possible abduction; given the fact that the actress’s resume was available for anyone to see on IMDB.com at the time, the end result was that most critics dismissed it – as they do most films exploring paranormal phenomenon – and an otherwise solid motion picture failed to find a larger audience.
EVIDENCE (2013) is produced by Bold Films, FilmEngine, and Marc Platt Productions. DVD distribution is being handled through RLJ Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, wow! The film looks and sounds incredible solid, especially given the proposed “limitations” of the damaged found footage; no expense was spared in given the flick an impressive, high gloss look (which might actually buy it a few more points in the ‘credibility’ department given the somewhat convoluted story). Sadly, there are no special features to speak of.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. EVIDENCE is the kind of film that, the more you think about it, the less and less and less sense it makes. It’s ambitious – much like all of the young people at the heart of its labyrinth storyline – but, like those same young’uns, it just ain’t up to snuff. As a one-time rental, you’ll probably be as modestly entertained as I was.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJ Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of EVIDENCE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.