Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The Field Guide To Evil: NZIFF Review

The Field Guide To Evil: NZIFF Review

Anthology films are always a tricky bunch.

Usually mixed in tone, and with one segment standing out above all others, the films generally suffer from indifference which mars part of the rest of the viewing experience.

Sadly, The Field Guide To Evil also falls into that category - a wild mix of tones, with some repeated undercurrent themes, and some successful, some not so successful celluloid miniatures.

It's fair to say that The Field Guide To Evil will probably hit genre fans more than the average audience, but that's not to dismiss the film's desire to explore folklore which has helped seed roots in horror throughout the years.

It's easy to pick a superlative entrant into this octet of creepy folklore tales- it would be Peter Strickland's final segment, The Cobbler's Lot, which mixes fairytale myth, silent film aesthetics, some truly wonderful imagery and colour, and elements of The Cure / Radiohead's There There for its tale about two brothers smitten by the same woman.
The Field Guide To Evil: NZIFF Review

It's a stylistically bravura end to a rollercoaster ride that does some things well, and others not as well. And it's also one that doesn't quite feel like you know what's coming next, something that hits others in the anthology.

Some of the tales end either abruptly or obtusely, with no real time to dwell on what's transpired or what it all means - though there's plenty of fodder for discussion afterwards.

Themes are interlaced throughout - with visuals like woods appearing in most, and even animals like goats appearing repeatedly. Interwoven are common themes like greed, avarice, sin, guilt, takes on post partum depression, and the supernatural. There's a lot to commend The Field Guide To Evil's scope and desire to cover the bases, but perhaps this crowd-funded flick should have settled on some and expanded them out more, chopping the chaff from the wheat.

Opener Die Trud has a totally intriguing start to proceedings, with the tale of forbidden love and consequence working well. And the segment Die Rote Maus involving a possessed creature leaving a body to kill at its host's well-being is stunningly evocative, cleverly promising more if it were to be expanded out.

Perhaps less successful is the comic Melonheads, which mixes cannabilism and coneheads to varying effect. Tonally, it stands out from the volume, but coming midway, there's an argument to say that this palette refresher has its own purpose.

Overall, the uneven edges to The Field Guide To Evil make it an anthology that promises potential and never quite manages to build on it.

That said, some of its standalone tales make a solid case for further development  - and the short storytelling element shouldn't be dismissed, with the global cast of directors doing much work with soundscapes to evoke feelings in such short spaces of time.

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