The Movie Waffler New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - THE EVIL GENE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - THE EVIL GENE

An FBI agent investigates a murder in a mysterious correctional facility.

Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Kathryn F. Taylor

Starring: Richard Speight Jr., Cameron Richardson, Lindsey Ginter, Anthony L. Fernandez

Throughout the entirety of The Evil Gene a discordant score creeps behind the chewy dialogue. It’s just as well it’s there, as otherwise genre fans would have precious little to remind themselves that they’re actually watching a horror film.

In times gone by it was common practice to assume correlation between demonic possession and mental illness. Those who were unwell in the mind were considered to be crazed by an evil derived from the Devil itself, and exorcism or stake burning functioned as the primary correctives for such psychosis. Thankfully, in a more enlightened era, we view psychological disorders from a more informed standpoint, seeing delusion, schizophrenia and other behavioural disorders as medical conditions, not a natural by-product of infection by Hellspawn. Of course, such modern sophistication has never prevented horror from using mental illness as a source of villainy and terror. From Dr. Calgari, to chief offender Psycho, right up to last year’s cheeky depiction of dementia courtesy of The Visit, representations of psychological disorders are manifest in the genre. And why not? We don’t go to horror for either documentary realism or good taste, and, really, what’s scarier than losing your mind? And so here’s The Evil Gene, which stokes up the old demonic possession/psychological disorder dichotomy, while also ruminating upon the perennial nature v nurture argument, and managing a few conspiratorial whispers regarding government mandated pharmaceutical trials. The devil makes much work for idle hands, indeed…

Troubled FBI agent Griff Krenshaw (Richard Speight Jr.; sample line, upon being quizzed about his religious beliefs, "let’s just say I preformed my investigation and it resulted in no conviction") is dispatched to a federal correctional facility to solve a murder. But, ah! Was it a ‘murder’ at all? The signs certainly point to suicide, but that doesn’t add up either. After all, this is a prison for inmates with a rare genetic defect that leads to psychosis and violence (where were these guys when Suicide Squad was recruiting, eh?!). Dr. Dana Ehrhart (Cameron Richardson; sample line "this place seems to have a reverse Stockholm effect, if you will") dispenses a divisive course of treatment that is at odds with the authoritarian sticks in the mud who manage the prison ("I don’t care about your pets!"). Could this shady but sexy doc have something to do with the bloodshed at the hospital? Egged on by the resident pastor ("Science proves the Bible right"), and some bloodied visions of his dead brother, our hero Griff becomes more and more convinced that the facility is inhabited by an evil force far beyond the remit of human understanding. Yikes!

Throughout the entirety (and I mean the entirety) of The Evil Gene a discordant score creeps behind the chewy dialogue, swelling and dipping in accordance to how spooked we’re supposed to feel as Griff, a keystone cop if ever there was, enacts his investigation. It’s just as well it’s there, as otherwise genre fans would have precious little to remind themselves that they’re actually watching a horror film. As Griff carries on his interviews with the various denizens of the hospital, dusts off files with names like ‘Project Alpha’ on them and witnesses the odd hallucination/haunting, he sports an expression of complete mystification. He’s as confused as the audience, who similarly have precious little idea of what is going on as Griff aimlessly wanders the murky corridors and enters muted, obtuse conflict with both prisoner and guard alike. In fairness, when the spooky moments do happen, they occur with such arbitrary menace, violently puncturing the ponderous tone and stilted performances, that they actually provide a real jolt. I’m a sucker for those black contacts and hissing voices anyway, but writer/director Kathryn F. Taylor certainly has a honed instinct for composing a decent horror tableau.

Further praise; with its shadowy hospital hallways, obliquely supernatural situation and crunchy dialogue, The Evil Gene reminded me of nothing less than a feature length episode of my favourite television programme ever, Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. Perhaps a spin off that depicts Madeline Wool setting up shop in a haunted correctional facility for people who were ‘born evil’. As ever, the star rating below is purely subjective, but feel free add on three more if you have to fight the forces of darkness, and deal with the burden of day-to-day admin.

The Evil Gene is on DVD and VOD now.