Let me quote the press release for writer/director Kipp Tribble’s (Coffin, Coffin 2) new film, Evil at the Door.
EVIL AT THE DOOR centers around a secret guild that has operated for nearly a century, known as The Locusts. Once a year this guild treats its members to a night of curated home invasions (aka, “runs”), known underground as “The Night of The Locusts”. With 180 minutes to do as they please with the occupants of the selected home.
I don’t know how that sounds to you, but to me, it just screams that Evil at the Door is a mashup of The Strangers films and The Purge franchise. Which, given their box office successes, is a pretty savvy idea. And there’s the possibility to spice it up with elements from everything from Funny Games and Hate Crime to For the Sake of Vicious and Hosts. Which only makes what we end up getting all the more disappointing.
As Evil By the Door opens John Doe (Bruce Davison, The Manor, Await the Dawn) is giving a video greeting to an unseen audience. He welcomes them to The Night of the Locusts and gives them, and us, a quick rundown of the night’s events.
Elsewhere Daniel (Matt O’Neill, Candy Corn, Edgar Allan Poe’s Lighthouse Keeper) is stalking around his opulent house pouring himself large drinks and snarling at his wife Jessica (Sunny Doench, The Corporate Cut Throat Massacre, Uploaded). It seems she’s let her younger sister Liz (Andrea Sweeney Blanco, Atomic Apocalypse, Blood of Drago) stay with them after her boyfriend beat her up. It seems the last time that happened she took the money they gave her to get back on her feet and used those feet to run back to him.
But, as several POV shots from the backyard tell us, a woman with lousy taste in men is going to be the least of his worries tonight.
Tribble gives Evil at the Door a good setup. Villains looking for some sadistic fun versus three bickering stressed-out family members who we assume will have to work together to survive. The trouble with Tribble’s film is that it does nothing with it or any of the film’s potential. Instead, we wait as the gang hangs out in the yard waiting for the time to strike. All three of the house’s occupants walk by the glass doors or even into the yard but don’t see the four masked goons standing there. Even worse they break into the house and stand there watching Daniel play pool, too involved in his game to notice them.
After they tie Daniel to the pool table they wait for Jess, equally oblivious to their presence, to come out of the bathroom where she’s soaking in the tub, listening to some hideous country music and drinking wine. Seriously, these guys are here to commit unspeakable acts of mayhem in a limited amount of time but they won’t kick down a door to get to their victim? Liz has noticed the intruders, but with their phones jammed all she can do is hide under the bed.
We get some internal dissent among the gang over that issue, along with hints one of them may not be who they seem. But ultimately it just means a little more talk and a lot less action. Things get so slow that at one point the camera focuses on a spider, possibly related to the one Davison had to deal with in Itsy Bitsy, crawling around. And that’s one of Evil at the Door’s more exciting moments.
It’s too bad because the cast of Evil at the Door is full of talented and, at least to genre fans, familiar performers including Robert Allen Mukes (House of 1,000 Corpses, Thankskilling: The Guest), Scott Hamm (The Howl, The Stay) and Robert Felsted Jr. (Re-Elected, Hanukkah). But instead of giving them anything interesting to do, everyone spends ninety percent of the film standing around talking.
And when Evil at the Door delivers a kill, it’s ruined by the use of a CGI knife. Yes, you read that right, a CGI knife. Instead of using a prop going into the actor and some sound effects, the filmmakers have a cartoonish-looking blade emerge from his body amidst even less realistic blood turning what should have been a bloody jump scare into an unintentionally hilarious moment. Equally ineffective is an attempt to create suspense by intercutting footage from a separate timeline. It ultimately adds nothing of value and feels like padding.
Evil at the Door wastes a premise that had the potential to be a solid low-budget thriller and give birth to its own franchise. It also wastes a good cast and even manages to render its one interesting innovation, the three-hour time limit, moot.
Terror Films will premiere Evil at the Door on January 21st on their YouTube AVOD channel. It will be available on other platforms a week later. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details.