A strange brew of pretentious philosophizing and histrionic style, this TNT documentary is bizarre programming indeed. Although a few of the interviewees have provocative things to say, Phil Tuckett’s film is not informative enough to be interesting and not titillating enough to be entertaining. Malcolm McDowell’s narrative voice captures the strangeness of this piece: intellectual yet overwrought.
“Faces of Evil” is fundamentally a series of interviews with people who, in very different ways, deal with or contemplate evil on a daily basis. From John Douglas (the famous profiler of serial killers), to Marilyn Manson and John Carpenter, to a priest, rabbi and a Navajo medicine man, the film attempts to examine evil from a variety of perspectives.
Viewers cruise through images of Goth culture, the Nazis, slavery and more recent outbreaks of violence in America; there are lectures on Satan from historians, sociologists, theologians; and throughout, McDowell tosses off quotations from the likes of Thomas Hardy, Baudelaire, Wallace Stevens and Shakespeare.
The film makes so many points over and over that it feels much longer than it is. Horrormeister John Carpenter arguably puts it best when he claims there are only two possible ways to tell a story about evil.
In both, he says, there’s a crowd around a campfire and someone stands up to speak. In one, the spiritual figure declares that there’s evil “out there” and this group must defeat it. In the other, he points instead to the human heart and identifies evil as being “in here.” The former is the more commercial of the choices, the latter probably truer.
Using the vocabulary of their own disciplines, all the other contributors basically say the same thing.
The repetition wouldn’t be so grating if it weren’t presented in such a monotonous and self-consciously slick style. The apparent target audience here is the MTV-bred crowd with Goth aspirations, but it’s hard to imagine this holding their attention for long. The speakers are usually shot from a low angle, against either wide open backgrounds — Rabbi Laurel Geller, for example, was taken to the top of a mountain for an interview, apparently just for effect — or cluttered spaces with dark-toned relics.
The music is constantly foreboding, matching McDowell’s low and reverberating narration. The piece seems constantly to promise something exciting without ever delivering it.
One thing is never discussed: the evil of mediocrity.