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By Nick Mead | June 4, 2009

The “found footage” horror subgenre has grown in popularity since “The Blair Witch Project” made box office predictors rethink their careers. The format has also given budding young filmmakers a new way to tell their spooky stories without having to spend a bunch of money. Sometimes the presentation works in spades (see T. Michael Conway’s film “June 9”); other times it’s merely a means to an end, and nothing terribly special comes out of it. Unfortunately, “Evil Things” falls squarely into this category.

“Evil Things” tells the story of five college students heading out on a carefree winter trip into the woods, high-end pro-sumer digital camcorder in hand, and the horrible things that can happen when you let a mysterious, window tinted van pass you on the highway. The fun filled vacation slowly (very, very slowly) but surely turns nightmarish, as you’d guess.

Most disappointingly, “Evil Things” is at its scariest when it’s not trying to be. I was always half expecting a human head to be thrown through one of the many darkened windows surrounding the characters as they drank and laughed, and that was the most visceral tension I felt. In the rare instances where the filmmakers attempt true tension and suspense, it’s overshadowed by the musical score, which completely ruins the “found footage” niche. Add to that frequent fade outs and strategic cuts, and the power of the pseudo-real feeling is gone. It’s a shame too, because the actor’s are fairly believable for the most part.

The camerawork is also worth commending, as it’s very competent and yet still retains a realistic feel. All too often directors making this kind of movie will overdo the shaky-cam aspect and just make the film frustrating to watch, but not here. But a successful horror movie not only needs to be scary, but also fairly clever in the way it scares you. “Evil Things” is rife with clichés, and I found myself laughing at the characters’ predicament rather than sympathizing with them. The slow pacing is hardly brooding, as well, and only manages to bore and frustrate the viewer.

Though I appreciate the genre and all it’s fresh conventions, the creativity and bold choices that can take a film like this to a special level just aren’t here. It wasn’t terrible, by any means, and I’d still recommend it over almost any slasher flick that’s been regurgitated in Hollywood.

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