PLOT: A group of friends decide to take a vacation at a cabin deep in the woods. During their time away they discover an abandoned mine where they make a deadly discovery, one which they may never be able to escape.
You can always count on a genre flick being made with a bunch of young people facing a nightmarish fate in the middle of the woods. With the recent EVIL DEAD remake as well as the tongue-in-cheek THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, the sub-genre has shown that a little ingenuity can still make for a thrilling horror ride. That brings us to the latest attempt with a touch of psychological horror called THE EVIL WITHIN. Much like previous films of this nature, we follow a group of friends searching for a little rest and relaxation in the middle of nowhere, only to discover that fate has an entirely different plan. In an attempt to add a little psychosomatic terror, this feature throws in an abandoned mine, a dude in need of his meds and a predetermined scenario that may be impossible to escape.
Early on we are introduced to the attractive group as they head out into the unknown. Generally we have a mixed bag of young people who play out a certain role, whether it is the tough guy, the slutty girl or the nerd who figures it all out, the cast usually fits into one of these categories. Here, the cast all seem to fall into the category of super good looking folk that just want to have fun. Aside from mentally unbalanced Michael (Joseph Cross), the loudmouth Brit Lex (Rafi Gavron) and the "psychic" Rose (Rebecca DeCosta) the characters are fairly interchangeable. This is not to say the actors are bad, it’s just that the endangered twenty-something victims just aren’t terribly memorable. The script rushes to explore each of them without really creating much interest in their plight.
As the story begins we find that the group is headed to a cabin in the woods. On their way they almost hit a stranger on the road, thus their van breaks down just a few yards from their destination. Soon after they arrive, they do a little exploration and discover an abandoned mine which they decide to make their way deep into the depths of. Before that fateful visit however one of them starts to act strangely. It takes these folks a bit before they suspect that he may have devious plans. All the while they make a number of ill-advised and dare I say stupid choices regarding the mine and how they interact with each other. You always have to have a certain suspension of disbelief when it comes to this type of film, but it’s near impossible to believe that anybody would make such awful decisions.
Maybe the characters make bad choices but once things do inevitably delve into darkness, I still found a little interest in the proceedings. Director Richard Gray adds a bit of style and energy which makes for a decently paced hour and a half. The locations are certainly creepy and he is able to keep the momentum going once things get moving. Even with an obvious twist, there is some fun in getting there as I found myself attempting to figure out exactly how they were going to end it all. By the final frame there are a couple of minor surprises, even if the outcome is obvious. It doesn’t help things that they sort of repeat certain plot points… the phrase “Did you bring your meds?” comes up way too often.
While the characters may not be all that original, the cast takes it seriously enough to make things work slightly. Interchangeable they may be, at least they are adequate. Horror regulars Briana Evigan (SORORITY ROW, MOTHER’S DAY) and Julianna Guill (FRIDAY THE 13th, ALTITUDE) are both charming enough. Unfortunately for the fellas, both Ethan Peck and Alex Meraz are the least interesting of the group. Their bland characters are much too one-note to generate any sympathy.
Originally titled MINE GAMES, you may find a small handful of worthwhile horror moments hidden within. The way the story unfolds is occasionally intriguing – even if the characters are not. A few of the actors seem to have a bit of fun with the script, most notably Gavron, Cross and DeCosta. However, the paper-thin roles and the dumb down behavior prevent THE EVIL WITHIN from being even remotely terrifying. And for a movie that could have amped up the fear factor, there is very little here that is horrific. There is hardly a hint of gore or suspense throughout – at least they do give us a little bit of sex and nudity. THE EVIL WITHIN is a decently made flick, but one that we’ve seen done much better many times before.