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Path of Evil
Reviewed by Laura Eldred, © 2006

Format: Movie
By:   Brad Goodman (director)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   December 27, 2005 (DVD release)
Review Date:   January 24, 2006
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   4/10 (What Is This?)

If you're hankerin' after some moderately competent slasher fare, with neither humorous witticisms nor extensive bloodletting to set it apart from the average film, boy do I have a movie for you! Check out Path of Evil: a little film so lovingly put together by personnel on all levels that the DVD jacket calls the killer by the wrong name. Though the film's mass murderer is dubbed the "Harvest" killer, the jacket drums up anxiety over the "Key Hole Killer."

Since the "Key Hole" killer is mentioned in the film, this just seems to show that the unfortunate peon who wrote the DVD copy only stayed in front of his TV for the first 10 minutes. All the better for him.

Now, let me clarify that this is not a terrible movie. It's also not funny ha-ha or funny strange. It's utterly nondescript. I doubt the filmmakers sat around the dinner table and said, "Well, Larry, let's make ourselves an utterly forgettable film," but somehow, between the sweet potatoes and the green bean casserole, it happened.

The basic shtick of the movie is that the Harvest Killer, who was responsible for a series of grisly murders in the 1980s (including the murders of the parents of our hero, Jake), appears to be making a comeback. One local man, James Carpenter, has been arrested for the crimes. However, the murders keep coming. Do the police have the wrong man? Why was there such a long gap between the two murder sprees? I know the answers to those questions, as I watched the whole film, but hopefully you will never be troubled with them. For, if you listen to me, you'll spend your time doing something else. Like watching Evil Dead II again.

I should give the movie some props for attempting homages to classics like Halloween (the villain's mask get-up is very Michael Myers), Silence of the Lambs (there's a scene in which a pretty young girl descends into prison to chat with a convicted murder), Jaws (an economically motivated city official tries to hide the ever-increasing violence from his townspeople), and some aptly chosen character names like Jake Barker and James Peter Carpenter and such.

While I did feel mildly pleased that I'm someone cool enough to recognize these basic references, that pleasure really had nothing to do with the film. It was merely a reflection of my own coolness.

There are several reasons that people might pick up a film like this at the video store. B-grade horror can be highly entertaining — mainly by being funny (purposefully or accidentally), highly gory, or by having hot people in it. The film does have a preternaturally cute little blond boy in it, who plays Jake as a child. I'll stop short of calling him hot, however. The actor who plays the grown up Jake, Justin Ament, is decidedly unhot, as only mid-thirties blonde ruddy-faced men can be. Think a slightly plump, less attractive Cary Elwes — which is actually rather what Cary Elwes looks like lately. Both Billy, played by Ryan Deal, and Stacy, played by Carrie Finklea, are reasonably attractive. But two reasonably attractive people cannot float a movie. I could go to Starbuck's for that.

As a side note, though I doubt this is really a reason people get B-horror films, the characters also aren't terribly likeable. Jake, our supposed hero, is all torn up because his girlfriend Stacy ditched him for another man. You find out, halfway into the movie, that she ditched him cuz he cheated on her! Well that bee-atch Jake only got what was comin' to him, the fool! My investment in whether Jake lived or died dug a hole to crawl into at that point. This would be forgivable if the characters were all amusingly obnoxious buttmunches, as in most teenage slashers lately, but they weren't that either.

The gore quotient is very low. There is one scene in which you see the Killer chop off a girl's hands with a big knife, and the scene was competently done. The rest of the violence was pretty uninteresting and unconvincing: People slash at with big knives or axes with squishy sound effects and a little blood spatter. The filmmakers make no attempts to do anything creative death-wise, which disappointed me. As far as I'm concerned, the whole point of a slasher is to kill someone, preferably by decapitation, in a new and interesting way. This movie gets NO GOLD STARS on its gore chart. Bad movie!

Regarding humor, the film is almost totally lacking. I found myself playing Sudoku during the film. If a bunch of numbers is more entertaining than your slasher film, that's a problem. There was one amusing moment when girl-in-shower asks man-out-in-bathroom (thinking it's her husband, but, surprise! It's not!) for a towel. He hands her a sweatshirt, which, strangely, she just puts on (dripping wet), before asking for a towel again and sticking her hand out of the shower. He slices her hand. Teach you to try to dry yourself! Ha ha! But that was the only time in the film I laughed.

Yes, it is bad, but not bad enough for the campy horror lover to sink her teeth in. It's mainly just derivative and boring.

There are some small, annoying errors. The sheriff talks about "murders" when he only knew about one murder; Jake has come to tell him about the other two. And when the Harvest Killer is nearly stopped by a flimsy plastic mobile home-esque door. And there are some logical gaps around the *startling!* *unexpected!* *conclusion!* that the film tries to pull off. (Please interpret those asterisks as sarcasm markers.) But, hey, it's low budget. We can't be too picky.

But, hey, Blair Witch Project? Evil Dead? Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Dead Alive? You don't need a huge budget to be brilliant. I think I will be picky. And this doesn't cut it.

Rev SF Contributor Laura Eldred thinks that this film’s characters should be resurrected, then massacred by the ominous Key Hole Killer! But only if she doesn’t have to watch it.

 
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