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2013 | 94 min | Not rated | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 19 July, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from Evidence Blu-ray

Evidence Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, July 18, 2013

The found footage subgenre doesn’t always explain itself in full. Rarely is there a film that establishes why we’re watching the video recordings of others, electing to use the screen chaos of hand-held devices instead of motivating their presence. “Paranormal Activity” selected a police evidence angle to ease audiences into a haunted atmosphere, but “Chronicle” didn’t even bother to follow through on its collection of security footage and home movies. “Evidence” is perhaps the most securely reasoned found footage effort to date, creating a story that logically requires cops to sift through hours of confessions and interactions on the hunt for a killer. It’s a welcome respite from careless storytelling, but this creative spark is smothered by an exhaustively subpar picture.

Somewhere in the outskirts of Las Vegas, a series of brutal murders has taken place. The crime scene is a mess of burned and dismembered bodies, with only three hours of recordings left behind to provide insight into what really happened. Vowing to bring down the culprit, Detective Burquez (Radha Mitchell) is confident there’s enough in the videos to make an arrest, while Detective Reese (Stephen Moyer), a frazzled man on medical leave, begs to join the investigation, with his expertise useful. Studying the glitchy images, Burquez and Reese dissect a road trip organized by aspiring actress Leanne (Torrey DeVitto) and future filmmaker Rachel (Caitlin Stasey), who travel with a group of secretive strangers to Las Vegas, only to hit trouble when the bus they’re riding in crashes outside an abandoned town. Hunting for an emergency phone, the gang finds themselves in deep trouble when a killer in a welding mask emerges from the darkness, picking off the panicky individuals one at a time.

“Evidence” is a mixture of slasher-style horror and a police procedural thriller, balancing the gruesome footage shot by the victims with time inside a video surveillance suite, where Burquez and Reese pore through the flickering frames with the aid of additional investigators and an overweight tech guy with a messy, caffeinated-drink-covered workspace (is there any other kind?). The cops have little evidence to go on, leaving them at the mercy of the footage, which begins with Leanne booking her first gig as an actress, only to have her debut night onstage ruined by a marriage proposal from boyfriend Tyler (Nolan Gerard Funk). She’s a wreck, he leaves, and Rachel is left to comfort her friend, organizing video messages to help heal the pair’s differences. The tapes also include the early stages of the bus trip, where Rachel cozies up to distraught mother Vicki (Svetlana Metkina), driver Ben (Harry Lennix), aspiring teen magician Steven (Albert Kuo), and irritable loner Katrina (Dale Dickey), who’s guarding a military duffle bag filled with cash. Screenwriter John Swetnam clings to formula to establish the group, cooking up one-dimensional aspirations and secrets that eventually funnel into the mystery aspects of the story.

“Evidence” is directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, the helmer of 2009’s abysmal alien abduction picture “The Fourth Kind.” He’s not a striking filmmaker, displaying a lack of visual imagination with the police footage, which is primarily captured with 360 degree camera swirls and monotonous close-ups of the characters deep in thought or reacting to grisly images onscreen. The found footage sections are equally prosaic, toying with extended forays into darkness to provide scares, also using the glitches to add some shock to an otherwise drowsy movie. Osunsanmi isn’t the leader “Evidence” needs, refusing to challenge dreadful dialogue exchanges between Reese and Burquez that recycle television cop show jargon, while the hunted generally carry on with a distinct awareness of the camera, puncturing the grip of reality that should lure the audience into the suspense. It’s not a sloppy effort, just too programmed for comfort, without a daring director to color outside the lines and turn the feature into a series of legitimate surprises.

“Evidence” has gore to share as bodies are burned by the welder’s acetylene torch and torn to shreds. There’s a dash of media commentary to make the movie ridiculous, exploring a consciousness it hasn’t earned. There are also a handful of red herrings and shots of the cops anxiously running fingers through their own hair. The feature eventually does establish motivation and a suspect, but the payoff is hardly worth the time invested, electing a cutesy twist over a nightmarish summation of video manipulation. Again, that the film actually makes time to set up a purpose for the found footage is marvelous. The rest of “Evidence” doesn’t share the same inspiration.

Starring: Stephen Moyer, Radha Mitchell, Torrey DeVitto
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi

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