★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
A sadistic murderer, a man haunted by the dead, and a young woman with a dark secret cross paths in this gorgeously realized Brazilian offering.
Directed by Samuel Galli
Brazilian horror drama Our Evil (Mal Nosso) starts out on such a sleazy, brutal note that I wondered if I had gotten myself into a torture porn mess, a subgenre that I steer clear of as much as possible. It turns out that this barbaric beginning has an impactful reason for happening, as the rest of the film slowly unfolds into an engaging and even touching masterpiece.
Arthur (Ademir Esteves) searches the dark web for assassins, and watches a video of professional killer Charles (Ricardo Casella) torturing and scalping a woman. Arthur meets Charles at a strip club to hire him for a job with specific, sealed instructions. Charles then pays two women at the bar to come to his home for sex, and viewers learn that he kills for the sheer pleasure of it, not just for money.
Our Evil then takes a couple of intriguing turns, as Arthur prepares for his daughter Michele’s (Luara Pepita) 20th birthday, and then, in flashbacks, we see a younger Arthur (Fernando Cardoso) tormented by the dead, who seek him out for a gift that he possesses. Along with its outright horror, sweet family drama, and film noir tones, Our Evil also contains elements of magical realism, such as young Arthur’s psychic visions of a circus with a clown-like figure who tries to help him sort out the mysteries surrounding his special powers.
Writer/director Samuel Galli continues down this supernatural path, simultaneously strengthening the family drama between Arthur and Michele, ramping up the horror, and heightening the tension behind Charles’ hired hit. It’s a remarkable feat that Galli weaves together the film’s subplots so well, but even more incredible is his masterful delivery. The poignant interplay between Arthur and Michele, the stirring moment when young Arthur accepts his gift, and other delicate moments are as skillfully realized as the film’s scenes of terror and bloodshed. Between how well fleshed out Galli’s characters are and the top-notch portrayals by his superb cast, both joyous and heartbreaking moments hold true emotional impact, making the horror elements deliver an achingly strong jolt.
Esteves is outstanding as the middle-aged Arthur. His expressions, often during long moments of silent contemplation, show him to be a world weary man who has known true sadness and real joy. Cardoso also stands out as the tortured, confused younger Arthur. Casella is chilling as the calculating, savage, remorseless murderer.
Horror fans of all stripes will find plenty to love here, particularly the grisly death set pieces and the slimy demonic creatures crafted by special makeup effects artist Rodrigo Aragâo. The circus-like score by Guilherme Garbato and Gustavo Garbato is especially fitting considering the magical realism subplot, and works in perfect tandem with the eerie sound design of Eduardo Virmond Lima.
Uncork’d Entertainment and Dark Star Pictures will release Our Evil in theaters and on demand on May 14. This stunning directorial debut gets a strong recommendation from me. The red band trailer is linked below, but gives away some spoilers.