The Movie Waffler New Release Review - HISTORY OF EVIL | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - HISTORY OF EVIL

History of Evil review
In a near future dystopian America, a political fugitive hides out in a house with a dark past.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Bo Mirhosseni

Starring: Paul Wesley, Jackie Cruz, Murphee Bloom, Rhonda Johnsson Dents

History of Evil poster

In a near future fascist America, a fugitive revolutionary hides out in the one place nobody will want to look – a haunted house!

Writer/director Bo Mirhosseni's feature debut History of Evil certainly has an arresting premise. But in blending dystopian sci-fi with an old school horror trope, the film plays like two separate narratives that keep getting in one another's way.

Some opening text explains how it's 2045 and following a civil war, America is now ruled by a fascist government, aided by groups of bible-thumping, gun-wielding militia. A resistance has formed and one of its key figures, freedom fighter Alegre Dyer (Jackie Cruz), has just escaped from prison. Aided by a fellow revolutionary, Trudy (Rhonda Johnson Dents), Alegre is reunited with her husband Ron (Paul Wesley) and their young daughter Daria (Murphee Bloom), who has no real memory of her mother prior to her imprisonment.

History of Evil review

The plan is to have an extraction team pick up Alegre and her family, but until they arrive they must hide out in a remote abandoned home. It's most definitely a fixer-upper, with no electricity and black sludge pouring from the taps. "The reason nobody comes here is because they're terrified of this place," Trudy tells Jackie, who oddly never asks why people might be terrified of the house. It's enough of a warning for the family's dog, who immediately runs off.

As Ron snoops around he begins to uncover the house's sordid past. In the basement he finds a Klansman's hood and other creepy paraphernalia. Taking its cues not so subtly from The Shining, the film has Ron discover the ghost of the house's previous tenant, Cain (Thomas Francis Murphy), an old racist who murdered his wife and child because they wouldn't come around to his bigoted ways. As Ron spends time hanging out with the spectre he begins to take on board his racist and misogynistic philosophy, becoming a threat to his family.

History of Evil review

I guess Mirhosseni is trying to say that if you scratch any white person you'll find a racist underneath, but the film explores this idea in the clunkiest of fashion. All it takes for Ron to transform from a leftist revolutionary to a racist men's rights activist is to listen to a few of Cain's bigoted anecdotes. Really? Despite the media being flooded with the very same sentiments, it took a ghost to turn Ron around?

Ron's instant about-face and his toxic new attitude is barely remarked upon by Alegre, despite how broadly Wesley plays the role. It's emblematic of a film in which creating realistic and relatable characters seems a secondary concern as Mirhosseni is more interested in his not so novel political message. The potential for an involving subplot concerning Alegre's attempts to reconnect with her daughter are left unexplored. We never learn much about Alegre, or even about her political beliefs, and when she delivers a cringey speech about fighting fascism late on it has all the resonance of a Facebook post written by a soccer mom who just learned that Donald Trump guy isn't a very nice man.

History of Evil review

None of the horror stuff works here because it's so hackneyed and unconvincing. More successful is the dystopian sci-fi background, with some nice ideas like how the militia forces people to swear on a tablet pdf of the Bible. The movie's only tense sequences involve Ron trying to deceive the militia at a road checkpoint and when they pay a heavily-armed visit to the not so safe house. But it only serves to make us wish we could get away from the house and its sub-Shining antics and see what's happening elsewhere in this dystopian world. Men with guns and God on their side are far more terrifying than ghosts, because we have proof of their existence in the real world.

History of Evil is on Shudder from February 23rd.

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