The front cover of Evil trumpets the blurb: "It's Fight Club in a boarding school." I think it's a little misleading, not to mention slightly overselling Mikael Hafstrom's lower key adaptation of Jan Gillou's semi-autobiographical novel; those hoping for nihilistic philosophy, dark flair and mind-bending cinematography will be somewhat disappointed by this nevertheless potent import.
Andreas Wilson, looking eerily like Edward Furlong, stars as Erik, a violently rebellious youth who's plucked from an abusive homelife in the 1950s by his mother (Marie Richardson) and shipped off to Stjarnsberg, a prestigious and very haughty private academy, where the borderline ritualistic abuse of lower classmen is carried out year after year. The athletic, flinty and indifferent Erik immediately causes waves by refusing to accept his beatings and cruel treatment, instead electing to mouth off and fight back. His bookish, timid roommate Pierre (Henrik Lundstrom) tries mightily to dissuade Erik from flaunting the rules, but despite the warnings, the fiery young man even goes so far as to strike up a romance with Marja (Linda Zilliacus), a Finnish girl working in the school's dining hall, further spitting in the face of Stjarnsberg's strict rules.
Let's face it – Erik's an aggravating punk as Hafstrom's film begins (you're introduced to him pounding the crap out of some helpless kid), so it's surprising that roughly 20 minutes into Evil, he's positioned as the film's protagonist; you find yourself rooting for Erik as the villainous upperclassmen, led by the reprehensible Otto Silverhielm (Gustaf Skarsgard), conspire to inflict all kinds of ugly behavior upon the freshmen.
If any complaints can be leveled at Evil, it's that the motivations of its characters feels a little too pat, a little too easy. Hafstrom and co-screenwriter Hans Gunnarsson seem content to imply that simply because Erik's stepfather beats him, he's a troubled, violent kid just as the filmmakers seem comfortable insinuating the upperclassmen, having suffered at the hands of the generation prior, are meant to heap physical discomfort upon each successive group of newcomers. It's a little too clean – shall the circle be unbroken? – and robs the film of any greater depth that what's inherent in the narrative. Despite its few flaws, however, Evil is a gripping, fleetingly poignant dissection of youth gone slightly awry. The DVD
Evil is presented with a serviceable 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer – there's hints of ghosting throughout and more than once, the image looks like a PAL-to-NTSC transfer. That said, the picture looks very sharp throughout, with just a hint of too much crispness. Colors look good and those bloody noses leap off the screen. The Audio:
Offered in its native Swedish, Evil is outfitted with a perfectly fine Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack – the film is mostly dialogue, save for a few "action" sequences and Francis Shaw's overwrought score. The characters speak clearly, with no distortion or drop-out, and overall, there's little to complain about here. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are also on board. The Extras:
What's included, supplementally speaking, is somewhat slight but worth sifting through: the 23 minute, 39 second making of featurette "The Truth Behind Evil" is here, as are three deleted scenes and a trailer for Andy Garcia's The Lost City. Final Thoughts:
While not as groundbreaking as David Fincher's Fight Club, Mikael Hafstrom's adaptation of Jan Gillou's Evil nevertheless says some interesting things about the nature of violence and how it is passed on from generation to generation. Recommended.