Making independent films is often a hard slog. There's usually little money to be made, to go along with the miniscule budgets, and that lack of funds can often hamper creative expression, and even cripple it. This is not the case, however, with ultra-weird, low budget horror effort Dropping Evil. This is bravura independent filmmaking at its gonzo best.
The story revolves around four high school students. The two cool ones, Samantha and Mike (Rachel Howell and Tom Taylor) ask their significantly less than cool former friends Nancy and Becky (Zachary Eli Lint and Cassandra Powell) to go on a weekend camping trip, more out of pity than anything else. (Yes, Nancy is a guy with a girl's name, for reasons that are hinted at in the film.) Nancy happens to be a devout Christian, and is constantly lecturing the girls on their whorish ways, and overly concerned about his apple juice being contaminated by their beer. As a way to mellow him out, his three companions spike his precious apple juice with the tiniest bit of LSD. Instead of making him groovy, though, it turns him homicidal. He declares that he can now see the true natures of his friends, and promptly goes on a murderous rampage with tree branches, axes and fishing poles, while still refusing to drive the car since he doesn't have a license.
This might sound like the setup for your typical "teens go to an isolated cabin and get killed" kind of derivative tripe, but it's so much more than that. Dropping Evil positions its characters and storyline firmly in a fully realized society and context. They've developed their own ontology, teleology, eschatology and general theory of why stuff happens the way it happens. Many films, even ones with loads of money and production value, give off the feeling that the characters spring into existence when the film starts, then disappear when the credits roll. In Dropping Evil there is obviously an enormous and complicated world that we're only allowed to see the tiniest sliver of, and in which the people we see walking around will presumably continue to do so after we cease to observe them.
The plot of this film is involved, intricate, doesn't entirely make sense, and perhaps isn't intended to. Real life often doesn't make sense, and in this way it feels real. Of course, it's all about centuries old conspiracies, demons, superior beings and sinister corporations manipulating world events, and I really don't want to talk too much more about it, as it's something the viewer should experience organically. Suffice it to say that the producers of the film aren't afraid to tackle themes and stories that are much too big to fit into one feature film.
This is not to say that Dropping Evil is without flaw. It has many, and significant problems. The performances are often stilted or overbroad, though old pros like Armin Shimerman and Tiffany Shepis are as smooth and effortless in their turns as one could hope. The characterizations can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Zachary Eli Lint's Nancy is the shopworn, one dimensional caricature of an overzealous evangelical Christian taken to ridiculous extremes, though he does get significantly more interesting after going crazy. (And perhaps this is a stylistic choice, though a puzzling one.) The production values are often sub-par, and the DVD image is plagued with murk and posterization.
The thing is, though, that none of this matters. This film has an infectious exuberance and passion that completely overrides the many areas that perhaps aren't as good as they could be. Three of the four leads are quite good, and demonstrate a range of performance that indicates real talent, and Zachary Lint at least makes his character interesting. The supporting players all get what the film is about, and if perhaps they aren't as polished, they give it their all. The music appears to be mostly original compositions, and is powerful and (most of the time) very cool. The sheer audacity of the project and the stylistic flair with which they pull it off is impressive enough to negate any ill impressions. If you're going to make a low budget horror film, this is how you should make it. The cost of equipment, limited selection of actors and location possibilities, the inability to pay for the quality of effects or props you might want, and all the other constant annoyances will betray your lack of funds at every turn. So why not embrace them, and go for the gold anyway? Love can make up for a lot of money that you don't have. Dropping Evil is undoubtedly one of the best ultra-low budget horror movies of the last decade, right up there with Murder Party and Make Out With Violence. Every fan of schlock and B movies should go out and buy this right now. Here's hoping Dropping Evil 2 comes out soon. Highly recommended.
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