Let’s Be Evil, 2016
Co-written and directed by Martin Owen
Starring Elizabeth Morris, Isabelle, Allen, Kara Tointon, Elliot James Langridge, Jamie Bernadette
A vision of augmented reality.
Martin Owen co-writes and directs this very slick sci-fi horror which plays on the idea of augmented reality and the failing education of American youth. While the two may not seen connected, Let’s Be Evil seamlessly ties them together, and creates a mostly good, taut and tight experience. Desperate to pay her mother’s medical bills, Jenny (Elizabeth Morris, who also co-wrote the script) gets a job with a super secret company looking after kids in the middle of an augmented reality learning facility below ground. The kids don’t say much, but they’re all smarter than your average bear. However not is all as it seems, and this reality may be less real than initially thought.
Lie Spike Jonze’s brilliant Her, part of the charm of Let’s Be Evil is by setting its science fiction in a very believable reality. Clearly there are no underground test facilities where kids live in an augmented reality with an A.I. called Arial, but Owen and Morris create a world where it does seem possible. There’s nothing in Let’s Be Evil that breaks the verisimilitude of the piece.
Further to that and the performances also work, though not everyone is great. Both Kara Tointon and Elliot James Langridge are very fluid, but Morris seems slightly stilted at times. Perhaps it’s because she’s acting against a cameraman and not a co-star, but her writing is a lot better than her performance. Let’s Be Evil is primarily filmed in POV, which gives it this bizarre and unique edge, but one wonders is it stilts an actor’s ability to be genuine. Newcomer Isabelle Allen, despite being on the poster and primary focus, isn’t given enough to do – which is a real shame as she shows a lot of promise. She’s starring in Owen’s next picture Kung-Fu Princess, which will hopefully give her the break she clearly deserves.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Let’s Be Evil is that 80% of the movie is set-up. Even when the final act kicks in, you still feel like Let’s Be Evil is finding its feet to get into the second act. As it stands, there is no second act. They arrive at the facility, we’re introduced to the rules and threat, and then it starts to wrap up. Because of this a lot of plot threads get left behind and even some of the treat is left unresolved. It’s a credit to Owen and and Morris that they’re comfortable letting the audience work things out for themselves, but it’s far too ambiguous for any real discussion to take place. More time given to the kids, the facility or what it is the threat is trying to accomplish, and Let’s Be Evil would have had more impact.
However, in a world where people constantly complain about a lack of original sci-fi in cinema, Let’s Be Evil is a breath of fresh air. It’s wickedly smart, very inventive and shot beautifully, but a disappointing payoff and some stilted performances hold back what could have been a true underground gem.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast and Scooperhero News. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen and read his weekly feature The Week in Star Wars.