When trying to describe a new film or TV show to a friend, it is often easiest to say it is a combination of two or more similar well known properties: “Jaws meets E.T.” or “The Terminator and Silverado mashed up with Rocky”. While this descriptive shorthand comes in handy, ultimately, it can set expectations – be they high or low. This can lead to a skewed reception of the film itself. When I was offered a chance to watch Face of Evil (produced, written, and directed by Vito Dinatolo), I went into it cold so I could ensure there were no preconceptions about the film. As a result, I feel that I ended up liking this movie a little more than I would have otherwise because, in hindsight, there are numerous films that could be used to paint that type of broad-stroked description and, sadly, it would not have lived up to any of them.
Face of Evil tells the story of Jay (Scott Baxter) who has returned home on July 4th following a tour in the Middle East. When we first see him, it is obvious that something is not quite right. Jay has a bit of a “lost in thought” look on his face. As he arrives home and is greeted by his friends and sister with a surprise party, Jay zones out a couple more times as he sees and hears news reports talking about terrorists and people not feeling safe in their homes about him, but he is quickly pulled into the here and now by his friends and the party commences. Jay’s ex-girlfriend eventually shows up, trying to seduce Jay. It nearly works until she suddenly falls ill. This incident starts all the dominoes falling as Jay winds up running for his life from his infected friends whereupon he runs into his unit sergeant, ‘Sarge’ (Chad Bishop, trying to channel Jon Bernthal), from his time overseas. The two men then begin a perilous journey to find some answers to the mysterious epidemic.
Director Vito Dinatolo makes an admirable stab in this, his feature film debut, wearing just about every hat possible on the production side of things. This is a mistake. Another set or two of eyes could have helped him in polishing the film up a little. The dialog was a little weak in areas and some of the ideas and themes conveyed could have used a little more focus. However, Dinatolo has an eye for laying out and blocking shots. His use of darkness early in the film contrasts nicely with more brightly lit scenes later in the later acts as Jay starts to understand what is going on and things begin to make sense. While not a true horror movie that gore-hounds might want, Face of Evil is more accurately a “psychological horror” film. Yes, there ARE “zombies” and there is a nicely done, albeit a “blink and you’ll miss it,” gag with a couple of slit throats, but the true horror here is that which resides in one’s mind. PTSD is a very real and very destructive disorder and it is the major theme within the movie. Both Jay and Sarge exhibit signs of PTSD although it’s Sarge who we see reacting more dynamically, from his pervasive conspiracy theories to his physical actions. One could go so far as to say they are two sides of the coin. How this affects them as they discover the truth results in a reveal that is neither surprising nor much of a twist although it IS the most logical and likely outcome.
I look forward to seeing more from Vito Dinatolo. I feel he’s got the right tools to make a name for himself. Unfortunately, for Face of Evil, he hasn’t quote mastered their uses just yet.
Face of Evil (2.5 / 5)