Possesses enough off-kilter charm to leave a lasting impression.
Loneliness can do weird things to a person. Just look at the disturbing ingratiation of Jim Carrey’s lonely, rubber-faced stalker in The Cable Guy, a film that’s difficult to keep from one’s mind when considering Carson Mell’s low-budget horror-comedy Another Evil. Throw in some paranormal activity responded to by an alcoholic, cat-hoarding exorcist who believes he once fucked the devil, and the specter of interpersonal isolation—along with the bizarre behavior it ultimately manifests—ends up posing a far more frightening threat than any ectoplasmic apparition.
When successful painter Dan (Steve Zissis) seeks some R&R with his wife, Mary (Jennifer Irwin), and son, Jazz (Dax Flame), in the family’s new, secluded vacation home, the experience proves far less relaxing when a ghost begins making its presence known. Mary calls in an oafish, laid-back medium named Joey (Dan Bakkedahl) the kind of guy who nonchalantly gulps a giant can of Arizona iced tea while evaluating a room’s paranormal presence or noshes on a corn dog with one hand while performing a cleansing sage ceremony with the other. Joey detects a pair of ghosts who are fortunately “ambivalent” (and “actually kinda cool”); they’re entities from another dimension that are merely bumping into Dan and his family from time to time through a phenomenon that Joey argues should be seen as akin to the good fortune of aurora borealis exclusively occurring within their home. Exterminating the friendly ghosts isn’t on the table, because doing so would be “kind of an asshole move.”
While Mary can see the ghosts’ silver lining, Dan is not convinced by Joey’s chill approach, so with the rest of his family back home in the city, he hires the far more conservative Os (Mark Proksch) for a second opinion. While Dan criticized Joey as “the kind of guy you have a beer with” and not someone who connects with the spirit world, Os’s bluster and tough-guy promises to “annihilate the specters” quickly wins him over and the two of them are soon having beers together (Os insists a good buzz helps him see ghosts). Despite the fact he’s clearly a charlatan, with extermination methods only as sophisticated as allegedly catching a ghost in a box and burying it in the yard, Os manages to wedge himself into Dan’s life for a week, convincing Dan to buy him cheeseburgers or to go hiking together. Soon, over copious amounts of alcohol, he’s spilling his guts about his ongoing divorce proceedings and odd encounters with Satan, all the while insisting that a special bond is forming between the two of them. Even as Os’s behavior grows increasingly pathetic and bizarre, Dan remains pliable to manipulation and has difficulty expelling the ghost-hunter’s increasingly unwelcome presence in his home.
Despite tapping into some deep psychological issues about religious delusions and repressed emotions, Another Evil largely plays it light, siding more with offbeat comedy than thrills and chills. Even as Os grows more threatening, believing he’s literally fighting on the front lines in a spiritual war against Satan, he’s still calling Dan “dude” and saying things like “God and I are running this shit now.” The third act goes over the top in a way that also harkens to the climax of The Cable Guy. The similarities between the two films aren’t blatant, but they are ever-present: a soft, pushover type unable to say “no” to an unhinged contract worker who’s crossing boundaries and suddenly invading his entire life in a misplaced search for elusive friendship. Os even calls up a stripper in a scene that parallels the prostitute Carrey hires for Matthew Broderick. The supernatural element—the house actually is haunted—adds enough of an X-factor to keep the similarities at bay, and the humor is far more of the cringe-inducing variety (Proksch did, after all, play a minor warehouse-working character on “The Office”) than The Cable Guy’s wacky set-pieces and Carrey’s dark zaniness.
Another Evil may stumble in its violent third act, largely because it works better as a black comedy than a light horror film, but that’s not enough to detract from its overall effectiveness on a shoestring budget. While not pitting Bakkedahl’s easygoing spiritualist directly against Proksch’s tightly-wound demon-buster feels like a missed opportunity, the film possesses enough off-kilter charm to leave a lasting impression.