Sometimes weird is good. And sometimes weird is just weird. The retro, genre mashup that is writer and director Ari Kirschenbaum’s film Live Evil is an unfortunate example of style over substance, recycling the horror-comedy genre with a hyper-ironic tone that I can only call meta-irony. That is to say, a movie so ironic that its irony and self-aware humor leaves nothing holding the center and loses its ability to entertain.
The convoluted plot centers on a sheriff deputy’s (Charlene Amoia) unusual encounter at a Halloween party where a demonic, yet human-formed figure is murdering partygoers. The deputy finds the culprit upstairs, female and naked (for some reason), but sedentary, with red, beaming eyes that for a moment conjure an image of a white room with a casket and blood rising from its crevices. These hypnotic images are supposed to signify guilty thoughts of characters who seemingly did unspeakable acts, although they don’t really propel the story in a meaningful way besides providing stylistic vignettes (the eye candy filled with empty calories). Why, for example, is the sheriff seeing a casket? Why will another character see a little girl? Did he kill her? Who knows…?
Our sheriff takes this killer into custody, which only creates more images in the minds of other deputies, townsfolk and bad guys in jail cells to see this demonic presence within themselves (more white rooms with blood everywhere), and eventually leads to the town’s grave plots exhumed by the corpses that lie restless within them. These zombies, however, are different (they always are), with Tales from the Crypt makeup, green eyes, and the ability to wield guns and ride motorcycles. Eventually the town takes up arms against the dead in the inevitable shootout, which coincided with an exorcism that, given the strange and confusing ending, may or may not have worked.
It’s as if the film was a 95-minute non sequitur.
The movie has a few saving graces. When I say stylistic, I truly mean it. Its music video quality is founded on a very retro, straight-up-cool soundtrack that echoes last year’s very hip It Follows. Kirschenbaum plays around with color (half the film is black and white, the second half a sepia-toned, moving Instagram post, if you will), dynamic set pieces, and aesthetically pleasing, albeit low budget CG that work well enough to engage the viewer to question how this mysterious plot will unfold.
Unfortunately, that question is never answered. The film is a familiar slice of Planet Terror pie – the Robert Rodriguez zombie-genre mashup and part 1 of 2007’s Grindhouse with Quentin Tarantino – but with the production value of any one of Ed Wood’s B-movie SciFi [air quote] classics. And sadly, the presence of horror fan favorite Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination), who clocks in at a paltry 15 minutes of screen time, does little to garner any intrigue. He appears bored. You, too, will be bored.