Meeting Evil (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Meeting Evil (2012)

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Meeting Evil reminds me of the conversations movie producers must have had with contractually obligated stars to appear in low-rent and (at the time) poorly-received Z-budget flicks.  This is the kind of opportunity Roger Corman must have salivated over back when he was feeding the likes of Steven Spielberg and James Cameron.  It’s a stylishly directed and supremely ludicrous thriller where the twist telegraphed isn’t the twist delivered and even the twist delivered is as predictable and fun as the twist telegraphed.  Basically, it’s the kind of film where you see the destination coming from miles in advance but the trip is so fun you don’t mind the wait.

This is also the kind of film that we would completely miss if it weren’t for the fact that I have to scour the DVD racks to find movies to line the “New on DVD” section every week.  Luke Wilson isn’t exactly the box-office draw that the producers of his films would like to have you believe (see Alex and Emma for a prime example of how perceived sex-appeal does not translate to genuine chemistry).  A similar philosophy applies to Samuel L. Jackson, who stars in big-budget films like The Avengers and Die Hard but still squeezes some room in for something strange like Black Snake Moan or The Caveman’s Valentine.

The talent is swayed pretty heavily in Jackson’s direction.  But in my fevered dreamscape I like to imagine that when Luke and Sam first read through the script they both grinned and said, “Ah, to hell with it.”  Because what’s the point of committing your life to something if you can’t have fun with it every so often?  Meeting Evil is proof of that.  It’s not smart, but damn is it fun.You’ll immediately recognize the subtlety scale you’re entrenched in with the very first two shots of the movie.  One that sets up John (Luke Wilson) as an employee of a realty company called US Dream Homes.  The very next shot features a wide array of “Foreclosed” and “Bank Seized” property signs as he spends his entire day driving through a neighborhood that would look populated in Mad Max’s stretch of desolation.  He drinks, he ignores his family, and he stands ominously above a house-sized grave dug for random plot convenience in the backyard of his home.  It’s ridiculous, but since I have Luke Wilson’s charisma to guide me the total ridiculousness of the images hasn’t quite coalesced.

Thank the cinematic deities for Samuel Jackson’s first appearance and all the ludicrous entertainment it implies.  He plays a mysterious grifter, con-man, devil-in-disguise, possible actual devil by the name of Richie who shows how little he cares by turning his back on John’s door when he rings the bell.  That acting flourish alone would have made me smile, but writer/director Chris Fisher isn’t content with relying on his posture, and dolly’s up with such speed you’d think this was the introduction of societies ubermensch.  This is a B-film, and goddamn is it proud of that fact.

It takes a while for Meeting Evil to build up truly glee-inducing scenes, but there are tidbits tossed in along the way that help the ride to the total breakdown worthwhile.  There are little anachronistic touches, like the gas boy who walks up to Richie’s car door to pump the gas of his terribly stylish car.  Then there are the huge touches that can only someone with a grasp of the less respected films of Scorsese can appreciate, like when John tries to use a phone in a cell phone store and ends with less communicative ends and more threats to beat him within an inch of his life.The film teases the reality of John’s situation with a ton of dialogue that sounds very suggestive of a spiritual component to the film.   Richie keeps saying how he is stranded, just like John, and how he couldn’t get rid of him even if he tried.  He appears to kill the people in John’s way just when it’s most convenient, and the cops on their trail are hip to the violent spirit of their actions if not quite the actual events.  They’re dull, yeah, but dull in a necessary way that fits the motif of the film.

As I alluded to, Meeting Evil takes heavy cues from Scorsese’s After Hours.  In that film, a hapless loony careens from incomprehensible situation to nightmare while failing to realize he is in a literal hell stuck on repeat.  Meeting Evil does the exact same thing, only using different genres of horror to do the same thing.  The movie is packed with homages; aside from the After Hours moment I mentioned there’s the wonderful shack interlude that is another inbred cousin to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the tense opening moments that recall a uniquely American horror film, Falling Down.

There’s no getting around that Meeting Evil is cobbled together from the inspiration and imagery of a few decades worth of horror films.  The thing is, when you’ve got a climax involving a boring well-to-do realtor making dinner for his indifferent wife and a pure psychopath, all introduced through a fish eye lens shot of Samuel Jackson looking threatening.

Some days, that’s enough to make me very happy.

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Meeting Evil (2012)

Screenplay written and directed by Chris Fisher.
Starring Luke Wilson and Samuel L. Jackson.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. You have me intrigued with your After Hours comparison. I might have to check this out sometime, I always love the under the radar Sam Jackson films.

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