Let's Be Evil


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Let's Be Evil
"Morris is good but has to work very hard to keep us interested."

For as long as we have had computer technology there have been filmmakers trying to spin plots around it. This is getting trickier and trickier as the escalating pace of change means that what seems futuristic at the drafting stage may well be in people's living rooms by the time the finished work comes out, but it has always been a context in which filmmakers have tended to overreach themselves. The smart ones concentrate on character and plot, recognising that the imagery and the satire will inevitably date. Let's Be Evil isn't as smart as it thinks it is but given the constraints within which it's constructed, it doesn't do too badly.

Setting a film predominantly within a virtual reality environment means it's easier to do more with a low budget. Director Martin Owen has one large room, a couple of small ones, some corridors and some ducting, but with plenty of filters available, it's all he needs. The institution he creates in this way is supposed to be an augmented reality learning environment, observable in its entirety only by those wearing special glasses (cue lots of first person viewpoints). Though the augmented reality aspect of this is seriously underdeveloped - falling far short of the excellent work seen recently in Jeruzalem - this isn't too much of a problem given that we don't see it from the perspective of the children whom it's designed for. Instead we follow their adult supervisors, recently recruited and, presumably because they're young and feel obliged to be polite, not kicking up nearly enough fuss about how little information they've been given.

Copy picture

Leading the group, at least from the viewer's perspective, is Jenny (co-writer Elizabeth Morris), who needs to pay her mother's medical bills and is, at least initially, wiling to do whatever it takes to achieve this. She's joined by Tiggs (Kara Tointon), about whom we learn little except that she's insomniac and a patient friend; and Darby (Elliot James Langridge), whose general behaviour suggests he's not long out of high school. What qualifies these people to look after young children is unclear, but as it turns out all they're expected to do is stand at a distance, observe, and occasionally hunt for those who have wandered off. It's during such an encounter that Jenny befriends one of them, Cassandra (Isabelle Allen, who is very good in everything except her final scene); otherwise the children seem singularly uninterested in them, concentrating instead on studies which, given the separate nature of each augmented experience, we can't see.

Naive young carers. Emotionally distant children. A sealed underground facility. Can you see where this is going? Although there's a hint of some bigger, darker plot at the very end, Let's Be Evil contains no real surprises. What plot there is is stretched too thin and time is filled with an awful lot of running round the corridors. Morris is good but has to work very hard to keep us interested and her first panic comes too early, diluting the impact of her fear later on. Thinly veiled comment on the way children are raised today doesn't add much depth and the moral dilemma posed by Jenny's concerns about her charges is under explored.

There's enough here to keep many genre fans interested and the cast handle the technical challenges well, but Let's Be Evil falls short of its potential. One scene in which a group of children are supposedly attacking an adult sees the young actors' hands delicately patting the victim, as if the director was afraid of encouraging them to be more physical. There's always a sense of something being held back, unduly restrained, so the film doesn't punch the way it should.

Reviewed on: 22 Oct 2016
Share this with others on...
Let's Be Evil packshot
Three people are recruited to act as supervisors in an institute for gifted children, but things don't go as they expected.
Amazon link

Director: Martin Owen

Writer: Elizabeth Morris, Martin Owen, Jonathan Willis

Starring: Kara Tointon, Isabelle Allen, Elliot James Landridge, Helene Wilson, Elizabeth Morris

Year: 2016

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: US

Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Children