Mixing found footage with conventional camera footage, ‘Evidence’ tells of two detectives who have to solve a puzzle and play a game of life and death with a serial killer. The game pieces are video recordings left by the killer’s victims after they are stalked and violently killed at an abandoned gas station in the Nevada desert. Olatunde Osunsanmi directs a screenplay by John Swetnam. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10
Serial killer films and found-footage horror films have both pretty much run their course. With ‘Evidence’, director Olatunde Osunsanmi and writer John Swetnam make a valiant attempt to do something new, bringing the two together, with a found-footage serial-killer film. But they may lose their viewer before the surprises late in the film.
Police detectives, Reese and Burquez (played by Stephen Moyer and Radha Mitchell), review cell phone footage shot by the victims of a stalker/killer. They are trying to piece together how five people were murdered stranded in the Nevada desert by a shuttle bus crash and they just happened to have the crime all nicely documented with a cell phone camera. The first stretch of our credulity is that someone got such complete coverage of the killings and in each scene remained enough unscathed to continue filming.
Detectives Reese and Burquez get the somewhat damaged recording chips and review the camera footage for clues. Improbably, that may be sufficient to solve the crime. We watch them solving the crime and we see the same extremely shaky camerawork that they see. In fact, the shaking of the image may be more jarring than the killings themselves. The unedited shots may lend some realism to the proceedings, but frequently they seem to be just padding out the film. Watching too much of someone walk wordlessly through a dilapidated building at night leads to impatience and even boredom. Since the film is being released on disk there may be some fast- scanning going on from impatient viewers.
‘Evidence’ starts with one nice CGI 3D rendering of the overstuffed crime scene. The producer could afford that because so much of the rest of the movie is done with economical digital video, done with a particularly shaky camera. But there is very little interest created in any of the characters so the video segments are just repetitive without being really involving. It seems the camera is always luckily aimed well enough so no plot detail is lost. We see a bit too much of the abandoned buildings falling apart but little to grab us. Too much we see in the footage pads rather than adds to the plot.
The real problem with ‘Evidence’ is that it stretches the viewers’ credulity that there is so nearly-perfect and complete a video record of the crime that the police can sit in one room watching a screen and do so much in solving the crime. That contrivance makes the detective work seem much too easy. It also makes the filmmakers’ job of making the film feature length, 94 minutes, seem just a bit too easy. If they wanted to make the film two minutes longer it is too easy to just show two minutes more of walking around with nothing happening. The problem with found footage is that it too simple and too tempting to just throw in more minutes of nothing happening.
I rate ‘Evidence’ a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10. ‘Evidence’ will be released on August 20 on DVD and Blu-ray, and will be available for download.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper 2013