Let’s Be Evil – New Release Review

lets-be-evilIn what appears to be the near future, but could just as well be the cutting-edge present, twenty something Jenny (Elizabeth Morris) finds that her job application has been successful. It’s a funny old rôle, the one for which she’s applied. It’s all in a bunker beneath Los Angeles, for one thing. And for another, you’re thrown in at the deep end with only an AI to tell you what you’re supposed to be doing. The job itself involves acting as a sort of overseer for a small group of gifted children involved in a radical new learning programme that makes use of a Google Glass-like technology. The children are busy on their Google Glass literally all the time – dang Millennials! – so she’s mostly just there in case something goes wrong. There are two other successful applicants: Darby is arbitrarily surly at all times, like a particularly edgy teenager, and uses an undercut to signify that edge. Antigone, who prefers to go by “Tiggs” for reasons that should be fathomable to anyone, is considerably nicer. She is in fact so nice to Jenny that one senses some lesbian undertones to their relationship, but it is only ever hinted at and never comes to anything. In that respect it is a little like the inconsequential, yet suggestive sexual history writer Dan O’Bannon envisaged between Ripley and Lambert in Alien, which seems to have been lost in translation from script to screen. After Jenny, Darby and Diggs, there is only one other human left to round out the cast list before it gets into the likes of “Telephone Caller”, “Newsroom Anchor”, and so on: a little girl named Cassandra, played by Isabelle Allen, who was the face of Les Misérables four years ago, and is now the face of Let’s Be Evil’s similarly striking poster. Cassandra is only one of several gifted “Candidates”, but she’s the only one with any lines. Apart from her, there’s also ARIAL, the aforementioned AI. It is inevitable that she will invite comparisons to HAL 9000 as well as the iPhone assistant Siri; that said, despite all the Google-baiting the film engages in, she more closely resembles Connie, AOL’s old advertising mascot.

Perhaps that’s telling in terms of how up-to-date the film’s thinking about technology is. The first half comes on like classic sci-fi: it is timely, it is imaginative, and it extrapolates from current technological trends to produce a quite unnerving picture of where we might be headed. But once things have inevitably turned bad and we slide into the horror-movie second half, it begins to become clear that the film doesn’t really have anything to say, on Google Glass or the proper approach to education or generationally differing attitudes towards technology. Despite all its social-commentary posturing, it eventually emerges as a film as old-fashioned as Village of the Damned, from which its creepy children are freely acknowledged to have been borrowed.

But for those who don’t necessarily need anything wholly original from their movies, this one is worth its while. The ultra-low budget is cleverly disguised through use of a great location (Essex’s secret nuclear bunker), clever lighting, and interesting production design. The film is shot from a first-person perspective, which has proven an irritating distraction in such past efforts as You Are Not Alone and Jeruzalem, in which Google Glass was only documenting the horror, not the source of it. Here, it is handled as effortlessly as it is in Peep Show, though the use of on-screen text prompts from the technology in question perhaps helps. In any case, it is a reminder that no gimmick is truly unworkable in the hands of a talented director and crew, and in spite of a muddled plot and more muddled ending, everyone involved here does their best to make Let’s Be Evil a blast, if a little shallow; a great-looking, great-sounding, solidly acted, and bloody scary little pic.

Let’s Be Evil is now out in Cinemas and VOD, will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!

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