Fantasia Fest: ANOTHER EVIL Busts Ghosts Its Own Way
At the time of writing this article, I haven’t seen the Ghostbusters reboot yet. That’s not for lack of enthusiasm; rather, I’ve been seeing movies at Fantasia Fest instead, and in the process seeing a whole bunch of ghost movies completely removed from Sony’s big-budget effects extravaganza.
No ghost movie I’ve seen has been quite as unique as Another Evil, the debut feature from Eastbound & Down and Silicon Valley writer Carson Mell.* Occupying an indeterminable place between horror and comedy, it’s more a relationship study than a spook-a-blast effects show, quietly captivating and memorable without shoving anything in your face. (Except one ghost dick, which I’ll get to.)
Another Evil is a simple tale about a family whose house is haunted by ghosts. After Dan (Steve Zissis, a deadpan straight man) gets the all-clear from an unnervingly laid-back ghost hunter (Veep’s Dan Bakkedahl, great value as always), who says exorcising the ghosts would be an “asshole move,” he seeks a second opinion. But self-styled ghost assassin Os Bijourn (Mark Proksch, fresh off a memorable support role in Better Call Saul) proves a stranger houseguest even than the ghosts. The rest of the film spirals deep into the relationship between Dan and Os, and boy does it get weird and uncomfortable from there.
Much of Another Evil’s charm comes from Mark Proksch’s performance as Os, the most eccentric ghost hunter in a genre full of eccentric ghost hunters. Os is a marvel of low-budget filmmaking, heavy on odd character details and light on ghost-catching gadgets. What tools of the trade he has are built out of everyday materials; his tactics typically involve shouting at ghosts and burying haunted items in the backyard. His casual, soft-spoken alcoholism; the layers of false anecdotes making up his backstory; his hatred of all things supernatural - he’s a character, alright. Proksch brings Os to life with a partially-improvised performance that’s unnervingly difficult to pinpoint. Should we laugh? Should we smile? Should we feel afraid? Proksch elicits all these reactions and more, often within the same scene. Sometimes it’s hard even to believe this character exists.
But Os needs a foil to play against. Forcing his friendship upon the film’s hapless protagonist, Os resembles Jim Carrey’s character from The Cable Guy, if he were less manic and more hapless. Alternating between irritating Dan and gaining his sympathy, he gets under his skin (and ours) like the most annoying, unshakeable pseudo-friend you can imagine. As he gets more and more bizarre, stripping naked and performing arcane rituals in the dead of night, events spiral towards a surprisingly dark ending that’s easy to see coming but tough to watch.
Another Evil doesn’t skimp on the ghost stuff, either, although it’s definitely backgrounded compared to other ghost movies. The film’s shot minimalistically, possibly even only with existing light, which in the initial scenes makes the film look kinda cheap. Those first ten minutes are tough going, but once you get accustomed to the unusual tone, everything starts to click into place. The horror moments, while shot and edited like a slightly lower production value version of every other modern ghost movie, are unique in their spareness. One ghost in particular, a crazy mutated thing with an enormous penis, appears in one shot before never being seen again. It’s an absolutely bizarre moment in a film that’s 95% focused on its two central performances, and one of the many times the audience laughs out loud simply because they don’t quite know what the hell happened.
From start to finish, Another Evil is a ghost movie unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s absolutely hilarious, yet it’s not quite a comedy. It’s scary, but it’s not a horror. It doesn’t even fit into most traditional definitions of “horror comedy” either. The filmmakers characterise it as a “supernatural comedy,” but even that ignores the screenplay’s darker, more character-driven beats. As a result, it’s a hard movie to sell as a reviewer. I can’t imagine the job the film’s producers have ahead of them. But however it's sold, I endorse Another Evil with all my heart.
* Check out Mell's animated webseries Tarantula to get an idea of the strange universe he occupies.