Reviewed by: David Stanners

Erik (Andreas Wilson) is a high school student with a talent for attracting trouble. Caught up in one fight too many, he's branded a troublemaker and expelled. Finding no solace at home, he is taunted, bullied and beaten by a pugilistic stepfather and eventually sent by his sympathetic, but passive, mother to a private boarding school to study his sixth form.

Upon arrival, Erik meets his nemesis in head boy toff Otto Silverhielm (Gustaf Skarsgard), a suave, conceited and manipulative creature Machiavelli would have been proud of. Strangely enough, it is he and his cronies who rule the roost, with the teachers taking a back seat in all disciplinary matters and subsequently turning a blind eye to the torture pranks and displays of public humiliation dished out at the expense of the weaker boys.

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Never a team player, Erik, in a vehement act of defiance, refuses to play the game. Standing up for himself, he becomes a pillar of strength for the younger kids, particularly his roommate Pierre, a gifted but awkward, bookish type. Blessed with the looks of a young Marlon Brando, Erik is also an outstanding swimmer, beating the very best in the school, but doing so quietly and with dignity. Naturally he gets on the wick of Silverhielm, who is threatened by his unnervingly cool attitude.

Set in 1950s Sweden, Mikael Hafstrom's Evil, is a contrived, but quietly captivating, piece of work, addressing issues of redemption, as well as moral justification for violence. It is hard to believe schools like this existed, with teachers presented as cardboard cutouts with no authority. Furthermore, Erik's ability to bottle everything up until the climax does not really strike any natural chords. But then the Swedes are much cooler than the Brits and restraint is second nature to them. Just look at Sven Goran Erickson.

There are some classic schoolboy pranks, involving shit in buckets, midnight runs and, of course, a little affair with a certain dinner lady (Linda Zilliacus), who appears a damn site younger and prettier than any I ever had. OK, so the Swedes are both cooler and better looking than us.

There's little new in Evil. There have been countless films made about schools, few surpassing Dead Poets Society. But it is highly watchable with some good character development, decent acting, and a crescendo that reaps a great deal of audience satisfaction.

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2005
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A troubled Fifties Swedish teenager is sent to boarding school, where he takes it out on the bullies. Out to own as part of the European Mavericks Heart Of Darkness box set.
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Director: Mikael Hafstrom

Writer: Hans Gunnarsson, based on the novel by Jan Guillou

Starring: Andreas Wilson, Henrik Lundstrom, Gustaf Skarsgard, Linda Zilliacus

Year: 2003

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Sweden


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