Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 23, 2019)
A horror tale in the supernatural realm, 1981’s Fear No Evil starts with a prologue set in 1963. Catholic priest Father Damon (John Holland) manages to kill a maniac who claims he’s actually Lucifer.
This nutbag also states he’ll return from the dead, and it appears this might be true when Andrew Williams is born a few months later. His father (Barry Cooper) suspects something’s up with his boy, and Andrew (Stefan Arngrim) turns into a withdrawn, awkward high school senior.
Eventually Andrew starts to display his powers. In response, archangels Mikhail (Elizabeth Hoffman) and Gabrielle (Kathleen Rowe McAllen) take on human form to fight the resilient anti-Christ.
Would Evil exist without the success of The Omen five years earlier? Probably not – while the 1976 hit didn’t invent the notion of the Satanic kid, it remains arguably the genre’s defining film, and it clearly remained in the public mind circa 1981.
Omen never did a lot for me, but compared to Evil, it looks like genius. Uninspired and derivative, Evil flops in virtually all regards.
When I say “derivative”, I mean barely a minute of the movie passes without obvious nods to influences. In addition to Omen, we can find plenty of remnants from Exorcist, Carrie and even that Twilight Zone with Billy Mumy.
Even if I ignore the movie’s lack of originality, Evil seems persistently amateurish. Virtually every role suffers from overacting, and the performers take their scenery-chewing to comic extremes at times.
The movie barely attempts a plot, as instead it gives us a rambling, meandering tale. Evil spends bizarre amounts of screentime with tangential roles, and it’ll also often grind to a halt to provide clunky exposition.
Little proceeds in a logical manner. The story often works like someone took a script, threw it in the air and reassembled the pages at random.
We also find scenes that make no sense in the real world, with an apparently notorious shower sequence the biggest culprit. In this segment, some boys taunt Andrew, and this ends with their leader and Andrew stuck in a kiss.
Unless I missed something, the main boy intentionally smooches Andrew as part of the humiliating prank. I find it awfully tough to imagine a logical scenario in which one naked heterosexual teen male decides to suck face with another naked male, no matter what the motivation. The ridiculousness of the scene makes it nuts.
Worse than all, Evil just seems boring most of the time. We find little tension or terror, as instead, the film tends to feel listless.
Evil does come with a shockingly good soundtrack, though, as it presents tracks from Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Sex Pistols, Boomtown Rats, and Ramones. Unfortunately, the awful title song by some flop band called “Trybe” ends the flick’s soundtrack on a downer, but I still must give props to the movie’s music supervisor.
If one exists, I can endorse a purchase of the soundtrack album to Fear No Evil. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend the movie itself, as it provides silly, overwrought cheese.