Back in the days of the Mom & Pop video store, in a time before DVDs, in a world before Netflix, there was a young pimply-faced Captain Midnight and his equally pimply-faced sidekick staring at the racks of VHS cases looking for a good horror movie to rent.  Neither of us missed any films of interest that hit the theaters, so finding a decent rental that neither of  us had seen was a risky business.  This was the first era of direct distribution.  There were low budget movies that had a  limited theater release.  There were direct to video releases.  Almost none of them were movies that had any kind of promotion.  Most of them were bad.

We’d look at the cover.  Huh, the cover art looks great, but cover art can be deceptive.  We’d turn over the box.  There are usually a couple small stills from the movie.  The special effects look okay in one of the stills.  It looks like there are some good production values.  Then we’d read the summary of the plot.  If it sounded reasonably interesting, we’d rent the movie, head back to my house and watch it.

Often  the best we could hope for was to find a movie that was entertaining enough to watch once– maybe twice.  That sort of mediocre horror film was a rental staple.  We became quite adept at rooting them out. You might even call it an “evilutionary” development.


Okay.  Evilution.  Gimme a second.  I have to go look the plot up on the IMDB. I totally forgot what that movie was about.  (On Hold Music.) Okay.  The movie starts with an US Army biological research lab hid in the middle of the bloody chaos and money sinkhole that is Operation Iraqi Freedom.   It seems that the Army has found an alien lifeform that looks like glowing laundry detergent and resurrects dead bodies.  So the Army starts to play with it, which results in a zombie plague at the base.  Predictable? Yes, but that in no way makes this taste of zombie goodness less delicious.

One Army scientist, Captain Darren Hall (Eric Peter-Kaiser )escapes the base with a jar of alien goo as bombs rain down putting a swift end to all the zombie fun.  Hall thinks that he can open a line of communication with the alien substance, which he hopes will result in peaceful alien goo-human coexistence.  We know that’s not going to happen, because if it that was the way the story was going to play out, this wouldn’t be  much of a movie.  That and the movie’s title, Evilution, is kind of a give-a-way.

Returning to the US, Hall goes underground, renting a wretched basement apartment in a seedy part of town.  There is a fun touch here with the manager (Nathan Bexton) of the apartment building; he seems to be channeling the spirit of Herbert West.  I imagine that direction went something like this:

Nathan Beeton (To Director Chris Congee): “So, how do you want me to play this?  Straight? Comedic?”

Chris Conlee (Handing Bexton a copy of Re-animator: “Watch this guy.  . . .  Jeffrey Combs.  Then come back and do it just like that.”

Also, resident in the building are: Hot Love Interest (Sandra Ramírez), Gang Member Numbers One (Noel Gugliemi), Two (Guillermo Díaz) and Three (James Duval) plus an assortment of other people that I don’t care about.  There is also Limey Junkie (Billy Morrison), who doesn’t live in the building but does wander into Hall’s apartment.  Limey Junkie sees all the lab equipment and assumes that Hall has some sort of drug lab going in his apartment, then  finding the jar of glowing orange alien goo, he loads some up in a syringe and injects himself.  He reacts badly and starts staggering around in the hallway, before dropping dead and  becoming a zombie.

There is a subplot with the Gang Member One and Hall. I’m not going to bother with it because it’s very boring and also not terribly important to the story.  The filmmakers seem to be going for some redeeming “We’re all brothers under the skin” thing.  I’m totally not buying it.  Through a series of nonsensical turns of the plot, Gang Member One becomes a zombie.  The Army, aware of what Hall is doing, sends its own trained thug, Sgt. Gabriel Collins (Tim Calcarea), to get the jar of goo.  Alas, the good Sergeant is too late.  Zombie mayhem engulfs the building.

Evilution isn’t a great movie.  It’s not a bad movie.  It’s a very unoriginal movie.  The characters are . . . well, I can only describe them as “meh.”  I wanted the gangsters to die.  I wanted the junkie to die.  The rest of the characters could only inspire benign indifference.  If they live — great —  if they don’t, well,  those are the breaks.  This is a zombie movie and people are going to bite the big one.   I’m not saying that the acting was bad.  There were no performances that I’d single out as poorly done.  There isn’t much in the way of character development in the script, and none of the actors seem to be able to close that gap.

The zombie effects are good, certainly comparable to movies with far bigger budgets.  The action sequences are well done too.    So, what’s wrong with Evilution?  Nothing.   Evilution is a competently made, competently executed, low budget zombie movie that never rises above mediocrity.  It’s certainly entertaining enough to watch once– maybe twice.

Eric Peter-Kaiser
Sandra Ramírez
Tim Colceri
Noel Gugliemi

Brian Patrick O’Toole

Chris Conlee

Two of five Vincents

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