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Film Review: ‘Evidence’

This aggressively terrible horror quickie is conclusive proof that the found-footage horror cycle has finally reached its low ebb.

With:
Stephen Moyer, Radha Mitchell, Torrey DeVitto, Caitlin Stasey, Harry Lennix, Nolan Gerard Funk, Svetlana Metkina, Dale Dickey.

The titular “Evidence” in this aggressively terrible horror quickie from director Olatunde Osunsanmi is video footage showing the last hours in the lives of a busload of Vegas-bound revelers whose trip ended abruptly in the Nevada desert. The movie itself is conclusive proof that the found-footage horror cycle sparked by “The Blair Witch Project” and mined successfully by the “Paranormal Activity” series has finally reached its low ebb. (Osunsanmi himself employed a similar approach on his 2009 alien-abduction mock docu “The Fourth Kind.”) Currently haunting a few multiplex screens and available on VOD, “Evidence” will require no tampering to disappear without a trace.

Pic opens with investigators arriving at the grisly crime scene, from which little is recovered aside from charred human remains and an assortment of camcorders and cell phones belonging to the victims — all conveniently fire-damaged just enough for their footage to be watchable, but interrupted by periodic blasts of visual and sonic digital noise (the pic’s preferred method of trying to goose the audience). Surrounded by a bank of shiny HD monitors, hard-bitten detective Burquez (Radha Mitchell) and her recently trauma-stricken colleague Reese (Stephen Moyer) scrutinize the footage while shouting occasional commands like “Capture that frame!” and “Zoom 35%!”, while cinematographer Lukas Ettlin’s  camera does enough circular dolly shots to make even Michael Bay queasy.

Posited as something of a YouTube-era “Rashomon,” the pic then takes us inside the video footage itself, each successive camera offering a slightly different perspective on the carnage and who might have perpetrated it. One point of consistency: Somewhere en route to Vegas in a hired coach, our ill-fated travelers crash in one of those middle-of-nowhere horror movie locales with no cell service and not a helpful soul in sight. Then, voila, a deranged, blowtorch-wielding psycho killer appears and starts burning everyone to a crisp.

But who could this masked man — or woman — be? Perhaps Tyler (Nolan Gerard Funk), the jilted, pouting, troubadour boyfriend of aspiring actress Leann (Torrey DeVitto), whose bestie, Rachel (Caitlin Stasey), is filming a documentary about her pal’s road to stardom. Or the disgruntled Iraq vet husband of a nervous, shift passenger (Dale Dickey) with a mysterious bag of cash in her lap? Or maybe the moody, man-of-few-words bus driver (Harry Lennix) himself? None of the pic’s red herrings are especially convincing, culminating in a wholly unearned double-twist ending lifted shamelessly from “The Usual Suspects.”

“Evidence” is lousy enough as a straight-ahead grade-Z programmer, but when Osunsanmi and screenwriter John Swetnam try to make a statement about the depraved depths to which some people will go to achieve fame, it enters the realm of the positively daft. Old pros Mitchell and Moyer scrunch their brows and try to make the best of a bad situation, while DeVitto is either very good at playing a bad actress or very bad at playing a good one. “I can fix anything with editing,” documaker Rachel proclaims from offscreen at one point. We beg to differ.

Film Review: 'Evidence'

Reviewed at AMC Empire, New York, July 21, 2013. Running time: 93 MIN.  

Production: An RLJ Entertainment release of a Bold Films presentation of a Bold Films/Film Engine production. Produced by Marc Platt, Adam Siegel, Nik Mavinkurve, Michel Litvak, David Lancaster, Jeffrey Stott, Anthony Rhulen. Executive producers, Gary Michael Walters, Jake Wagner.

Crew: Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi. Screenplay, John Swetnam; Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Lukas Ettlin; editor, Paul Covington; music, Atli Ovarsson; music supervisors, Richard Walters, Andy Ross, Laura Katz; production designer, Freddy Waff; set decorator, Georgia Schwab; set designer, Joseph Feld; costume designer, Alexis Scott; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS), Tim Hays; supervising sound editors, Darren “Sunny” Warkentin, Lon Bender; re-recording mixer, Chris Johnston; visual effects supervisor, Andrew Somers; visual effects, The Molecule; associate producers, Jon Oakes,  John Swetnam, Alice S. Kim, James Gibb; stunt coordinator, Ben Bray; assistant director, Dieter H. Busch; casting, David Rapaport.

With: Stephen Moyer, Radha Mitchell, Torrey DeVitto, Caitlin Stasey, Harry Lennix, Nolan Gerard Funk, Svetlana Metkina, Dale Dickey.

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