Ghosts from Our Past: Both Figuratively and Literally, the title of a controversial book co-authored by Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abbey Yates (Melissa McCarthy), in Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, serves as a handy description of Carson Mell’s superb horror comedy, Another Evil. Vacationing at his mountain cabin property, Dan (an abstract painter) and his family experience and witness ghostly events. Calling in a psychic medium, who tells them there’s definitely a problem, the artist’s friend recommends a guy he knows in the to exorcise the house of evil spirits. Big mistake.
Dan (Steve Zissis) is no sceptic. He knows his house is haunted. The problem bigger than poltergeists causing a ruckus in the middle of the night is Oscar, a David Brent-like paranormal investigator (played by Mark Proskch, who starred in the American version of The Office). Not only are his methods very strange – his equipment looks homemade and phoney – it’s his eagerness to become new best friends with Dan which sits most uneasy. Oscar sees the gig very much as a bonding experience, it’s revealed his personal life is falling apart (he’s getting divorced and comes across as a very lonely soul), but Dan thinks he’s being taken for a ride by this particular individual.
The ghosts are not ambiguously presented, it’s not all in Dan’s mind and neither is Oscar being a shyster. What Mell’s ‘the ghosts are real’ tactic does is blindside Dan and Oscar, once the battles of egos and wills starts to take precedence over the investigation into cleansing the house. There is also an element of class conflict. But Oscar won’t let go of Dan or the case. What sounds like an ever-increasing desperation to stick around – he starts to rant and rave about the cabin not only being haunted but a portal between Hell and Earth – might well be the truth. However, so much has happened by then between the mismatched pair, Dan is fearing for his life, an entire artistic legacy is put into question, and Oscar has gone into full-blown stalker mode.
Nothing else this year can match Another Evil for its expert chills, comic dialogue, Office-level cringe and disturbing themes. A film where character differences and social awkwardness are as much the sources of ill-ease as any demonic activity, Mell has made richly textured work operating on numerous levels. It’s a seriously impressive directorial debut.
FrightFest 2016 runs from 25-29 August at Vue Shepherd’s Bush. For info and tickets: frightfest.co.uk
Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn