They say some people go nuts when it rains. “When Evil Reigns” is what happens when a whole lot of people go nuts when it rains, and not the kind of nuts that requires you to eat an entire gallon of ice cream yourself.
Basically, about a dozen or so college kids are holed up in a film school as the evil rain starts pouring down, and they’re left to try and survive as the town goes insane around them.
One of the worst parts about “When Evil Reigns” is how long it takes for anything to actually happen. Aside from a nicely done opening three minutes in which a woman is beaten to death off camera, there’s absolutely no distinguishing this movie from some shockingly low-budget romantic comedy about film school students. And frankly, for a movie called “When Evil Reigns”, there’s really not a whole lot of evil doing much of anything around here.
At least, until we get about thirteen minutes in, when for no apparent reason, most of the people in the town of where ever the hell it is just start going nuts, and often in very different ways. We’ve got one guy acting like a reject from “28 Days Later” and bashing bicyclists from his car, and in the very next scene, another guy’s marching on the lockable gates of the film school, shambling open-mouthed in a very “Night of the Living Dead” fashion. They intersperse scenes from about half a dozen different fistfights, going on seemingly everywhere in town and timed to coincide with a sudden cloudburst.
My guess is that they’re trying to make the rain have something to do with it, which isn’t a bad idea–some kind of biological agent intermingled with the rainwater.
There are major problems with “When Evil Reigns”. The audio, for one, is a near-total loss, suffering heavily from echoes that distort most of the dialogue. I was actually glad when I could hear a line or two, and found myself longing for subtitles so I could follow the movie.
And yet, at the same time, the Jacksons have made an excellent treatise on how amateurs can fortify a large building under attack from all sides, which is great fun for zombie movie enthusiasts like myself.
Come right down to it, this is a good movie, if you’re willing to put up with an audio track you can only occasionally hear and a special effects budget better suited to buying gum than effects. The idea is solid–survival horror is a woefully underserved subgenre–and the execution certainly isn’t bad, all things considered.
I do need to say something about the absolute farce of an ending that the Jacksons subjected us to–watch in absolute awe and disgust as the enraged infected just sort of stand still for a little while as our last surviving heroine just sorta wanders through the building, using a nail gun to semirandomly pound nails into the heads of the infected. And except for only a couple infected, no one will make a move to stop her on this.
All in all, “When Evil Reigns” is a testament to what low-budget filmmakers can really do. It’s heavily flawed, but the idea is solid enough to make it a worthwhile watch. Some corrections would certainly improve things, and if there’s ever a version with remixed audio or subtitles, try and get your hands on it.