Face of Evil, the feature-length debut from writer/director Vito Dinatolo, is a poorly paced and unremarkable horror-thriller that is more frustrating than frightening.
The film opens on Jay (Scott Baxter), an army veteran that has just returned from action to find that his sister (Jamie Bernadette) and friends have thrown him a surprise party. Still struggling with his memories of combat, Jay isn’t exactly in the mood to celebrate. The tense atmosphere in the house only becomes more profound after Jay’s friends contract a strange virus.
While there is enough of a mystery to keep the story moving forward, what feels like the film’s climactic action sequence takes place approximately twenty-seven minutes into its nearly ninety-minute runtime; making the last two acts feel almost like an hour-long denouement – or another movie altogether. All of this may be forgivable, if it weren’t for the fact that the dialogue is stiff and unrealistic. There were a few moments that were clearly intended to function as comedic relief, but the delivery and timing falls flat. An interaction, in particular, between Jay and pal “Sarge” (Chad Bishop) is painful to behold. The two come across more as bickering siblings than former comrades-in-arms.
Additionally, the score is forgettable and the cinematography, while featuring a few interesting shots during the chase scenes through Jay’s house, suffers from a lack of consistency. For as many interesting and eerie visuals as we are given, Dinatolo provides an equal amount of ill-timed and gratuitous slow motion that pulls the audience out of the moment, rather than deepening the experience of immersion.
Predicable jump scares and a plot twist that can be seen from a mile away round out a film that isn’t offensive or badly-conceived enough to be considered awful – but this certainly isn’t good.
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