Evil At The Door (Review) It comes but once a year…

EVIL AT THE DOOR

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Trick 6 Films and Writer/Director, Kipp Tribble for allowing me early access to an online screener of his latest Horror/Thriller film “Evil At The Door”. Tensions mount between partners Daniel and Jessica (Matt O’Neill and Sunny Doench) when Jess’s troubled sister, Liz (played by Andrea Sweeney Blanco) arrives at their California home looking for temporary refuge. As luck would have it, she happens to pick the very same night that the place and its occupants become the sole target of a mysterious group of masked men led by, Kennedy (Richard Siegelman). The film also stars Kipp Tribble (Coffin), Scott Hamm (General Hospital), and Kenny Yates.

I first discovered Kipp’s work about a decade ago via “Coffin”, his low-budget Mystery/Thriller inspired by the likes of Saw and Cube. Truth be told it was more than a little rough around the edges, but that said, still highly enjoyable and entertaining. He’s been working in the industry in one capacity or another since then, and now takes point once more in another DIY home invasion style thriller. Making things all the more challenging over the last couple of years has been the on-going threat of COVID-19 and navigating that complication in a working environment – something Tribble informed me proved difficult on this particular project. Let’s get into what Evil At The Door has going for it, and at the top of that list is Kenny Yates cinematography. This may very well be exhibit A in regard to flexibility shown by filmmakers these days around set work in modern times. Yates actually plays the young and brash Nixon in the film (one of the group), so I was surprised to also see his name pop up being credited as DP (director of photography). He keeps the look a simple one and frames everything quite well. The opening credit sequence has some flavor to it especially for an indie film, and Kipp’s color grade is a natural one. The audio track is solid and Wesley Hughes music calls to mind suspense-filled score reminiscent of TV’S “The Purge”. Whilst the aforementioned is perhaps a touch derivative, he does produce a pleasent and subtle layer of piano throughout the more emotionally driven scenes.

Evil At The Door lacks in the hands-on action department, although it does contain a few memorable slow-burn moments of tension. One of the highlights coming from a well-timed scare in which a particular character is hiding from our group of invaders. Granted, the way in which the scene unfolds is fairly typical and predictable, but I like the plot device with which they execute said scare. The cast, by and large, are made up of unknowns who do a relatively serviceable job in their respective roles. Veteran actor, Bruce Davison (Short Cuts and X-Men) is one of a couple of exceptions to that fresh-faced rule, although his screen time barely clocks in at five minutes – appearing only via Zoom but he remains important to the central setup. Blanco, in the lead role, is arguably the best of the bunch – though she’s not given much to do. Tribble’s screenplay could’ve benefited from delving a little deeper into her character, as she’s by far and away the most interesting character in the film. Speaking of which, Kipp himself is also deserving of a shout out for his role as Truman.

One of the main issues with Evil At The Door is even with a speedy runtime of only 80 minutes, it’s long-winded and takes a round-about way of getting to no real destination. If I had to wager a guess as to why, I’d say it’s likely two fold. First, the COVID guidelines and restrictions in place make it difficult to plan for more people and characters. Secondly, to a trained eye, the general budget constraints become evident with this type of filmmaking. The first action sequence doesn’t come until well over the halfway mark, and the result is a somewhat hokey one in regard to the corresponding effects (which unfortunately look like they were done with poor CG). There’s inconsistencies in some of the technical specifics, e.g focus lapses or a couple of poor edit glitches here and there (but considering experience levels of the crew it’s all still quite good). Unfortunately, the film is almost completely void of a consistent sound bed as well. Most viewers will likely predict the central story beats that occur, inevitably being left with the same questions I was once the film came full circle. There’s nods to the aforementioned Purge franchise but not a whole lot in the way of context. As I cited earlier, I’d hoped Kipp would’ve figured Liz into the equation in a more compelling and surprising way (think “You’re Next”), especially given the things we learn about her early in proceedings. Instead, this one basically ends up playing out like every other stonecold home invasion film you can think of.

Evil At The Door is a film I can appreciate and commend, especially given the circumstances under which it was made. However, the final film can only be described as a mixed bag. A majority of the technical aspects are quite well conceived and there are one or two relatively suspenseful moments throughout the second act. In addition, the cast are generally pretty solid. But its the limitations on Tribble’s script that ultimately hold the film back. There’s sizeable chunks of scene padding over the course of the 80 minute runtime, likely due to minimal characters and non-existent action. Time and money issues are almost always front and centre in filmmaking and never more than on an independent production, so I can sympathise with Kipp’s plight. With hindsight, exploring Liz’s character further and potentially flipping things on their head with her arc may have resulted in more interesting viewing. That said, if you’re a fan of the home invasion sub-genre feel free to check out the trailer below and show some support for the film.

Evil At The Doors – 5/10

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