cast: Meletis Georgiadis, Yannis Katsambas, and Andreas Kontopoulos
writer and director: Yorgos Noussais
95 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
TLA Releasing DVD Region 2 retail
[released 14 May]
reviewed by Paul Higson
George A. Romero changed the horror film, with the stumbling cannibal cadavers of Night Of The Living Dead, and Umberto Lenzi did it again with less acknowledgement on his City Of The Walking Dead (aka: Nightmare City), replacing the ambulatory corpses with a zombie that was equally rapacious but with a hyper-kinetic step. They streamed in upon their victims, the sprinting, and ravenous dead. Dan O’Bannon picked up the fast ghoul again by for his Return Of The Living Dead. Zombies and other monsters still have a habit of creeping up on you, and most need to continue to do just that for the velocity monsters to remain a scary bolt from the blue. The Host had a quick monster but like many quick monsters it is alone, they come at you one at a time. The victim knows which direction it has to defend itself from, survival instinct, no matter how hopeless their situation. When the horror comes in rampant hoards hope is abandoned and that is why the velocity-dead continue to worry moviegoers. If these films do not turn up more frequently it is because major studios have to invest a lot of money into making them, whereas the technical effectiveness is normally outside the range of most low budget film makers. 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn Of The Dead thrilled for all of their faults; their dead were frightening and the situation grim. Yorgos Noussias’ Evil (aka: To Kako) comes from Greece, and seems to be indebted to all the films just mentioned but with the addition of Shaun Of The Dead.
Diggers uncover a cave and an evil infects the three finder workmen who are, respectively, at a night club, at home with the family and at a football game when the rabid biting kicks in. The malevil spreads at a ridiculous rate. Evil barely lets up as survivors traverse the city for an escape route, picking up but also losing people along the way. Jenny (Mary Tsoni) is at home when her father is overtaken, the mother first alerted to something confusing and frightening happening not in the seat next to her at the dinner table but on the televised football game. People in the crowd bite and transfer the canker. He eats the face of his wife and chases his daughter from the building, she, on the way, coupling up with pretty blonde neighbour Marina (Pepi Moschovakou).
Meanwhile, taxi driver Argyris (Argiris Thanasoulas), the carefree joker, picks up a fare in the form of the beautiful Dimitra (Stavroula Thomopoulou). Careering away from the advancing mob they rescue Andreas who convinces them that something out of the ordinary is happening on the streets of Athens. Andreas risks safety to conduct a favour for Dimitra, making a call to her home, and ends up going one on one with a dead garage mechanic. Andreas returns with a detached arm as a trophy. The following day the girls meet Meletis (Meletis Georgiadis) who has lost family. It has hardened his resolve to survive or to take as many of the undead with him before they get him. The group next meets a soldier who saw his unit fight, collapse and eat one another. The two groups connect and manage one hearty meal before the dead find them and a ludicrously comic, creative scrap and bloodbath ensues. Every daft and dangerous object is utilised to maim and de-animate the dead.
It is at this point that the film betrays itself. The characters and their banter are funny but their comedy has a natural cadence. Bursting into splatter-scope Evil becomes Tex Avery of a sudden, and the characters are divested of emotional logic. It is reasonable for some to care less about fallen comrades when they have witnessed their entire families slain, but they might care not a jot about some disappearing beneath a zombie scrum then inexplicably appear to feel a loss for others they barely know when they die. The makers have penned in faults for the characters that they presume the audience will love and hate respectively within a pinpoint precision… but they have got it wrong. The dialogue is so regular and credible that the discrepancies and the fantastic violence mock what could have been, a more hardcore and realistic survival horror story. It wants to be both, but it cannot do that. It’s failure lies in its success. We like the main characters, even when they don’t like one another. We care about them and the director callously dispatches them periodically, even when they have often shown themselves to be super-fighters and worthy of making it through. The fighting is straight out of Shaun Of The Dead and Hong Kong crock-fu. Other survivors take the group in but, in the middle of the night, the dead track them down again. The film concludes with a spectacular aerial shot of the remaining four survivors on the football stadium pitch as dots of the dead in an ant-like frenzy move in on the complex and invade the pitch, moving in on the collective. It seems hopeless but paves the way for a sequel if wanted. I’m not ruining anything in revealing this, as in truth you will want to know that some make it to the end credits and the shocks as to who doesn’t can be met along the way. The film is too fast, even resorting to multi-view options of three or four frames displaying aspects on the action from different parts of the street.
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The hi-def camerawork (IMDb claims its mini-DV but I doubt they could achieve some of the shots on mini-DV, likely a mix of the two) captures the morning and day brilliantly but the equipment is not as kind to the night. The gore effects vary, some of them worthy of Tom Savini. When they fail with some of their body parts its because they tried to do too much, that is, too many. The acting is good throughout. Evil is an entertaining high-octane horror. If only the director, Yorgos Noussias, had left the buffoonery at the door. When Jenny wakes up on the first morning she exclaims to Marina, “It wasn’t a dream!” … and Marina responds, “No, unfortunately. I felt the same way.” It is how everyone would awaken. They would first discount it as a nightmare then smell the blood and smoke in the air. Jenny’s horror when she discovers the body of her four-year-old brother is played effectively straight, as is the anger she vents on her infected father when he reappears, intent on finishing the family off.
At the other end of the reality/ fantasy scale, the director sticks in a shot where the taxi three are hiding behind trees, only Argyris, for no good reason, is hiding behind a tree so thin it could not possibly hide him nor even a stick. The director became addicted to his excesses and must learn to resist temptation, or have someone on hand with the firmness to tell him when to lay off the silliness. Sam Raimi is a model here but Raimi was stylised and arched everything, camera, character and horror, throughout his films. This director is ignorant to some of his talent, how natural his dialogue and characters are. This is a great first step into feature films, calling to mind Italian horror romps of the 1980s, only with an anxious, fractious digital spin, and none of the near enough dubbing. Athens is a marvellous backdrop for the action, the calm before the storm dawn shots that accompanying the opening titles inform you immediately that this is a professional production that is capable of reserve. Noussias could go either way in the future, or better still stay with the genre and get that perfect balance. I’ll be keening to see what happens.