Stars: Hannah Ward, Matthew Mercer, Rayne Bidder, James Adam Lim, Jennifer Zhang, Tara Strand, Sage Howard, Shanda Lee Munson, Jimbo Barnett | Written by Jennifer Zhang | Directed by Pearry Teo
It’s been three years since I first discovered the work of Pearry Teo. Back in the early days of my movie reviewing “career” I was sent a horror film to review called Necromentia and immediately fell in love with the Hellraiser-esque nightmare – so much so that at the time I approached Teo for an interview (which he duly gave) and named it in my Top 10 of the year. Since then I have eagerly awaited news on each and every one of his films… From Witchville to Dead Inside, possible sequels to Gene Generation and Necromentia and his current project, the epic-sounding The Return of Captain Nemo.
So imagine my surprise when I was asked if I wanted to review a small, low-budget horror by our friends at Signature Entertainment and discovered it’s actually a UK retitling of Teo’s 2011 horror film Dead Inside!Apparently re-named The Evil Inside for international markets, the film follows a mentally disturbed teenager named Sarah who has premonitions of the impending deaths of her fellow schoolmates. When they turn up uninvited to her home for a party and murderously turn against each other as the night progresses, Sarah must determine whether her visions represent the preventable or the inevitable… or something entirely more sinister.
A slow-burning horror, The Evil Inside is one of those films that gets under your skin by taking its time to bring you into the story before unleashing it’s true colours. It’s also a film that plays with your expectations as you wait for each new vision that Sarah has and how each vision will come to fruition… Visions that are remarkably eerie (none moreso than Sarah’s vision of the films two bitchy girls in the attic) despite there often simplicity. And that’s a mark of the film: it’s a simple “haunted house” premise that is lensed in the eeriest way possible – with great use of light and shadows and a leading lady whose character is downright creepy! Teo uses what limited resources he has to build a film full of atmosphere, that favours nerve-stringing tension over gore and shocks – although there are those too, especially in Sarah’s visions and inevitable deaths of her so-called “friends”.
Penned by first-timer Jennifer Zhang, who also stars in the film, The Evil Inside features your typical gaggle of cliched teen characters, many of whom you’re glad to see the back of once their dead, yet strangely at no time do the characters actually feel like stereotypes – there’s a inherent sense of reality to the characters, especially Sarah, played by newcomer Hannah Ward (credited as Lala Hensely here) whose odd mannerisms and behaviour give her character a greater depth than the rest of the cast. The film also has some light-hearted moments in the script – from it’s “magical penis” reference, to Zhang’s character grabbing larger knife after larger knife when confronted with a creepy noise in the kitchen; which offer an oh-so-small break in the relentless horror of the film.
Whilst this an entirely different film to Necromentia, The Evil Inside still shares the same foreboding sense of dread and ideas/themes of personal hell; and come the denouement there’s a real sense of pathos as Teo unveils the truth about just what happened to Sarah… proving once again that there’s no one else making horror films quite like Pearry Teo.
Powerful, haunting and sombre, this is a must-see in my book.
The Evil Inside (aka Dead Inside) is released on DVD on October 8th courtesy of Signature Entertainment.