Ghosts are undeniably scary. But if your greatest fear is being trapped in a skin-crawlingly awkward social situation, you may be permanently scarred by Another Evil, a horror-comedy that elevates the concept of “frenemy” to alarming new heights.
All images courtesy Dark Sky Films
Though the rural house at the center of Another Evil does have a pair of windows that resemble Amityville eyes, it’s otherwise rather normal — a weekend getaway for Los Angeles painter Dan (Steve Zissis) and his family that’s not ostentatious, but certainly speaks to his successful career. Unfortunately, it’s also apparently haunted by a pair of ghosts who enjoy fiddling with Dan’s art supplies and popping up at unexpected moments.
It’s enough to inspire Dan and his wife (Jennifer Irwin) to hire an extremely laid-back hippie exorcist, who declares the place haunted by ghosts who are “actually kinda cool,” and suggests that it would be “kind of an arsehole move” to ask them to leave. Mary’s fine with that, but Dan — the only one who’s actually seen the spirits — is skeeved out enough to seek a second opinion. Enter the decidedly not laid-back “ghost assassin,” Os (Mark Proksch).
Os is a sarcastic, needy, dismissive, obnoxious know-it-all. That is completely obvious from the start. It gets worse the longer Os camps out in Dan’s vacation house, drinking too much and displaying signs of being seriously emotionally disturbed. But Dan is amused by him, at least initially, and is sympathetic when Os confesses he’s just been dumped by his wife.
Dan is also very intent on ridding his house of ghosts, especially since Os seems convinced that they are, in fact, dangerous agents of Satan. Another Evil makes sure you know that the ghosts in Dan’s house are a) real and b) capable of doing genuinely scary stuff. (This is a low-budget movie, so the frights are lo-fi but effective.)
In the end, the film escalates into exactly the kind of thriller you’d expect it to, especially when Dan finally grows tired of Os’s antics and boundary issues and casual references to things like “eyeball juice,” and starts standing up to him. What it lacks in third-act originality, though, Another Evil makes up for with its slow-build examination of Dan and Os’s awkward attempts at male bonding. They do have chemistry, but as the tension between them escalates, you may find yourself wishing that a shrieking demon would appear onscreen and rip somebody’s head off, or do something to break up the cringe-inducing psychological nightmare that’s unfolding onscreen.
The obvious joke contained within Another Evil is that a human character is far more malevolent than any of the movie’s supernatural beings. But perhaps even more frustrating than Os is Dan — whose fear of ghosts is eclipsed only by his fear of being impolite, and whose greatest flaw is being utterly incapable of recognising a toxic living person.