‘Evil’, by James Wan, is the best involuntary comedy of the year – 10/09/2021

“Evil” reminded me of my 12-year-old. Good time, when I was sifting through the shelves of the video store (Video Magic was practically my second home) to select the most rotten horror movies and watch with the gang. Three tapes, pick up on Friday, return on Monday.

At the time I wasn’t on a leash for some very basic things, like narrative structure, coherent script, good acting, solid direction. What mattered was the gore, the brutal deaths, the blood flowing and the laughter the scenes caused. Teenager is a strange thing.

Probably the same can be said of James Wan. I bet that his youth was equally flowery, which could already be attested to the film that revealed him to the world, “Saws”. Cool horror from 2004, was the trigger for a series that already has almost a dozen movies and revealed its style of horror that mixes classic references with ultra violence.

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Gabriel, deep inside, stalks his next victim

Image: Warner

It was from James Wan’s mind that the cinema saw the first modern shared horror universe emerge, inaugurated with “Evil Summoning” in 2013. Perhaps retaking the genre more crudely had been in the plans for ever, but only when he wet his fingers on other beaches, and starred in two $1 billion movies – “The Fast & The Furious 7” and “Aquaman” – Wan had the creative freedom to resume his passion without any restraint.

The result is just “Evil”. The mission there is simple: create a new horror icon, which he did with Jigsaw from “Saw”, and make a new hit series. The hotshot here is Gabriel, a deformed, superhuman-moving assassin, who dispatches his victims with a razor-sharp trophy amid a bloodbath and a pile of bodies.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After an initial sequence in which a group of doctors in the 1990s seem to be dealing with a monstrous patient, the calendar jumps to the present day by focusing on Madison (Annabelle Wallis, from…er… “Annabelle” ), who is pregnant and suffering at the hands of her abusive husband.

It is in this cycle of aggressions that Gabriel enters the scene, an entity that moves through the shadows and gets rid of this guy, leaving Madison injured and traumatized. Gradually, she begins to exhibit an almost symbiotic behavior with the killer: paralyzed, she has visions of other brutal murders just as they are taking place. For the police, Madison goes from victim to suspect.

Madison’s relationship with the seral killer, who turns out to be an entity of extraordinary strength and agility, suggests a supernatural suspense framed by bloody and shocking scenes. James Wan, however, cannot see a rug that has ever pulled.

Without going into details, because spoilers are evil, suffice it to say that towards the middle of the second act “Evil” takes a 180-degree turn with a series of crazy twists. What was a basic and even immersive horror turns into a completely hallucinated and out-of-the-house movie. “Bizarre” would be too little to describe. Serious. If I tried to explain here what happens, it would be a complete failure.

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Director James Wan lights the way on the set of ‘Evil’

Image: Warner

Suffice it to say that the more “Evil” reveals its colors, the more comical it becomes. Tragically comical. It’s like witnessing a violent accident on the way down the mountain: we want to leave it behind, but we can’t help but slow down and try to see the sorry state of the victims. “I’m glad it wasn’t me,” blows the little devil on his left shoulder.

This mixture is, for many, indigestible. But it’s going to grab the movie-going crowd by the neck trash, in which logic leaves the scene and makes room for pure sensory stimulation. It’s not horror, just as you can’t be scared off by the Frank Henenlotter movies (“Basket Case”, “Frankiehooker”) or the “Friday the 13th” series. It’s physical horror without the David Cronenberg elegance, it’s the gore more brutal without the narrative glue of the giallo. It’s fun. It is funny. It’s crude. Did I already mention bizarre?

“Maligno” is also the perfect show to be seen in the movies. In the dark it’s easier to disguise the laughter. In an ideal world, however, it would be available on VHS, tucked away on the store shelves, waiting for a teenager eager for a night of movies and fun with friends. It would be a nice night. At 12 years old, we don’t really know anything.