However as I started to watch it the film fell fowl of the Blair Witch comparison. It is filmed hand-held from the camera of one of the characters and the film we watch is taken from the alleged evidence from the official investigation. It's not really this film's fault, it's just that anything that Blair Witch was ground breaking and did something new and exciting in cinema, anything with hand held films afterwards is compared, that's just the way it is.
Evil Things is rather similar to Blair Witch in many aspects, and while it does touch on some new ground and a few interesting twists, it doesn't exploit them enough to make it something that stands alone.
With that it carries the same problems that Blair Witch did, in fact the same major issue, the one of why people would keep filming when some of the scarier and shocking events happen around them. That, for me and many others I know, continues to be a problem with these films.
That said, Evil Things does manage to avoid those moments too much by keeping the audience engaged in trying to figure out what's happening, or just plain surprised or scared. There are a couple of moments that you remain unconvinced that anyone would keep filming, and in Evil things the lead character actually starts arguing with another character trying to persuade them to film instead of them, and here is where the idea begins to stumble. You find it hard to believe that they would want to continue filming, however the film does try and make a good argument for it saying that they might be able to get a shot of whoever is doing it, now that's something that might convince you, but it doesn't quite make it.
I think the strongest aspect about this issue that Evil Things brings up is that it does stop and start and there's visible self editing while filming as they stop and start the camera. That's a real step in the direction of making it more believable. Another strong decision here is that they don't only use footage from the main camera of the group and there's a second camera used.
While I think this is an extremely interesting change in the whole concept and brings something new and unique to the story, again I don't feel it's explored enough and feels totally unexplored and unexplained. It's good that it's there and I really enjoyed the use of it, but it just raises questions and issues that aren't answered or even hinted at later.
It also manages to take away from the excellent marketing choices, the FBI evidence bag and letter, the opening FBI evidence marker, suggesting that this is the video used in the official investigation, and yet it's so clearly dramatically edited together with another camera source. Another aspect of the film that goes against the whole idea of this being official is the score. At a few dramatic points there's an eerie score that picks up to enhance the possible scare factor, and while that does work, it again goes against the intent of making this feel like an official piece of evidence.
My final point on that front is the end, I won't describe it, but it brings in a third camera aspect that doesn't fit with the marketing idea or the rest of the film again, and just raises even more questions without providing any more answers.
At this point I was really confused at what the film was trying to say to me, is it trying to be a piece of evidence of what happened to this group or is it trying to be a dramatic film?
The characters are a good mix, there's not one that's really annoying or two clichéd, and they all stand up for themselves pretty well until the terror really starts to hit. In fact there are some scenes where you do genuinely believe that they could be partying for real, some of the things that they say and do feel like you could be sitting with them partying. However there are other moments that feel lumbering and slightly awkward and you wonder if a lot of this is improvised, it has that sort of feel to it.
At the beginning of the story the appearance of the group's troubles is an interesting change from what you might expect and does set-up something different from the usual hand-held horror films, and the tension and suspense is built up from these early moments, and built up well, even if some of the reactions from the group could need a little slap.
The sequences in the woods were very much Blair Witch, and there's no getting away from that. However they do try and make the feel somewhat different and to a degree they succeed. It feels a little more realistic and a little less contrived, but there was still a feeling of "what the hell are you doing?" which was causing some frustration.
A couple of other plot points that came up and had me slightly confused were the sound they kept hearing and the use of the walkie talkie. Both had me slightly confused and although they seemed to be interesting additions to the idea again it felt as though they weren't used completely or provided an explanation. The sound in particular had me confused about the tone of the film as well, was it tipping towards something supernatural or straight up human terror, I wasn't sure at that point.
The scenes in the house were perhaps the best, and I thought that this is where the film could really have set itself apart, and there are a few really good moments, perhaps the best being the first disappearance which really delivers a good fright and does it really well, tying in with some of the little twists that were delivered earlier, and the very good twist of the package at the front door - without giving anything away, I thought that this was where the film did take a step away from the others that you could so easily compare it too, and it suddenly changed the intent and tone of the story for the better.
The ending seemed more confusing for me, as we seemed to miss the disappearance of two of the characters and there was nothing mentioned of them again. and with another additional twist added to the story right at the end it leaves you thinking that there might be a completely new possibility to the events, and a really interesting one at that, but there's just not enough given to the audience to mesh these things together and bring them to a possible conclusion.
Away from the story, Evil Things was well filmed and did well with hand-held cameras and through the darkness of the forests using torches for light, and some of the in house scenes were really well put together and provided a strong injection of pace and tension, particularly that first disappearance and the power of that moment.
The film does a strong job of carving its own path away from the typical hand-held horror film, providing some interesting twists and turns beginning from early on in the film and right up to the closing scenes. There's plenty of food for thought too, with the wide open possibilities of the ending raising so many unanswered questions without any pointers to a single possible conclusion that you could be thinking for a very long time about it.
There were some missed opportunities with the story and with the ending, and the film could have been so much more, but it is a strong effort in the genre of hand-held horror and delivered some good moments and some strong frights.