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First Look Review - M.I.A. A GREATER EVIL

M.I.A. A GREATER EVIL review
A college expedition to Vietnam turns into a nightmare experience.







Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Abishek J Bajaj

Starring: Valerie Bentson, Lamou Vissay, Sarah Ball, Mark Matula, Sahajak Boonthanakit

M.I.A. A GREATER EVIL poster

All hail the advent of affordable U.A.V.s (or, as they are more commonly known as, drones) and the benefits that this photographic technology has had for low budget filmmaking. Gone are the days of cost prohibitive cranes and helicopter shots. The advent of the drone allows vast, sweeping overhead compositions to any film-maker with 40 quid (what it costs to rent one for a day - I just checked) and the thumb skills of a reasonably competent X-Box user. The democracy of the technology is exciting: your Spectres and Iron Mans utilise the drone’s gravity defying autonomy to imbue their aerial scenes with a cool fluidity, while less financially blessed productions can promptly match their big-business counterparts’ cinematography due to the accessibility of this cheap, floaty little robot.

M.I.A. A GREATER EVIL

In the case of M.I.A. A Greater Evil, with its soaring establishment shots of oceanic rivers and infinite greenery (Thailand itself, according to imdb), you may even be tricked into thinking you’re watching an actual movie, before the erratic plotting and nervous performances kick in, that is. We’re going down the Red River with a bunch of collegiates: a cynical lad, a wise (older) teacher and a couple of fruity girls (that’s not me being reductive; until the end of the film there is precious little to distinguish either female character, except for the gratuity of one stripping to her underwear for a shoe-horned sort-of-sex-scene midpoint; phwoar eh lads etczz). The gang is seeking out the legendary gold which apparently resides in abundance within the Vietnamese forests (a delightfully old-fashioned MacGuffin, like something from a cartoon). However, it seems that the intrepid bunch are woefully unaware of what the film’s publicity refers to as ‘the burning question which remains unanswered from one of the most controversial wars of the 20th century’, i.e., what happened to the hundreds of missing American POWs from the war? Yikes!

M.I.A. A GREATER EVIL

It all goes to shit for our guys when their dinghy capsizes going over some impressively filmed rapids, resulting in the gang finding themselves stranded. It is confusing however, as it is not as if they’ve ventured that far off course - maybe a mile down a river which they are fully capable of tracking back over. But we’re repeatedly informed that the situation is dire through dialogue which is so anxiously delivered it’s as if the cast have off-camera guns pointed at their heads. The jungle sours from ‘paradise’ to a ‘primeval hell’ at night, and, what’s more, one of their number may actually be unhinged: ‘have you taken your meds?’, ‘you need to take your meds’, ‘don’t forget your meds’, they keep saying. In a fit of irrational pique, however, we see said character defiantly throw a ‘med’ into the river early in the film; it is the size of an Alka-Seltzer and ominously fizzes away in the shallow water like one too. Uh oh.

M.I.A. A GREATER EVIL

M.I.A. A Greater Evil is certainly a micro-budget horror with ambition. To my shame, I automatically assumed in the opening, with the avaricious kids and remote setting, that this was going to be an exotically set slasher, which it certainly isn’t. With a plot involving ghostly Vietnam vets, mystic guides, evil forces, time loops and improbable familial links, this film does not lack for ideas. The problem is that these plot devices, each potentially intriguing in and of themselves, don’t coalesce (SPOILER) and are in any case all ultimately chucked out with the groansome Carnival of Souls denouement (SPOILER ENDS), and we’re left pondering what exactly we’re supposed to be unnerved by in this horror. Eventually, M.I.A. A Greater Evil ends up as lost as its hapless characters, besieged by a variety of hazards and unable to see the wood for the trees. Perhaps it should have taken its meds.


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