The Field Guide to Evil
the field guide to evil | ashim ahluwalia | can evrenol | severin fiala | veronika franz | katrin gebbe | calvin reeder | agnieszka smoczynska | peter strickland | yannis veslemes | robert bolesto | elif domanic | silvia wolkan | anthology | new zealand | nff
Film: The Field Guide to Evil
Director: Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland and Yannis Veslemes
Writer: Robert Bolesto, Elif Domanic, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Peter Strickland, Yannis Veslemes and Silvia Wolkan
Starring: Birgit Minichmayr, Jilon VanOver and Fatma Mohanmed
This is an interesting film that I had my first opportunity to see at the Nightmares Film Festival. This is an anthology horror film that tells 8 unrelated short films that are from different countries and time periods. The official synopsis for this film is there is known as myths, lore and folktales. They were created to give logic to mankind’s darkest fears; these stories laid the foundation for what we now know as the horror genre.
The first tale for this film is called Die Trud. This one comes from Austria and it takes place in a much simpler times. We see a group of women as they go about their daily lives. There is a young woman who happens upon another. She is hitting herself in the face, causing her nose to bleed. We see the reason is she is pretending to have gotten her period. The women all think she is pregnant and has sinned as she isn’t married. Our main character is intrigued by this girl and they kiss. She is caught by her mother and forced to repent for her sins. Odd things start to happen and she is visited by the creature, Die Trud as it is drawn to her guilt. Is this really happening or is it a dream?
This story I found to be quite intriguing, because it really seems to be a tale about forbidden love. We never actually learn if Die Trud is seeing is real or is this just her guilt manifesting in her nightmares? She has fallen into lust for the character that is deemed to have done unholy thing and now is with child. Being that this is a Christian people, she has sinned. It just worked for me that the guilt of religion and what her mother tells her makes this to be a story I was into. I really liked that it is left up to the viewer to decide what is real and what isn’t.
As for the second story, it comes from Turkey and is entitled, Al Karisi. This tale is about a young woman who is pregnant. She is tending to a sickly older woman, whom she still a pin from, and then she goes into labor. She is visited by a djinn of childbirth. It can come in the form of a cat or a goat, which for this is primarily the latter. The young mother loses her mind as the creature takes over the form of the older woman and she doesn’t know what is real and what’s not.
I thought this story was pretty interesting as well. There isn’t a lot in the way of dialogue as the older woman can’t really speak and it is just animals aside from that. This one seems to deal with a couple different things, with the primary one being post-partum depression. How everything that plays out, that was definitely how I saw this one as she is in over her head with her husband away. On top of that though, there is a moment where the young mother steals a pin from the older woman. She seems to be punished for the act that she committed there as well. I did like the idea of using goats, which always seem to be used due to their look with evil creatures. This one had a solid ending as well.
The third story is The Kindler and the Virgin which comes from Poland. For this tale, we have a man who is approached by an entity promising to make him all wise, he just has to eat the brain of 3 recently deceased. He does go about this, with one of them being an infant. This film has an interesting end as it takes place right into World War II.
This one I thought had an interesting premise to it. It actually is the first ones that was difficult for me to figure out the allegory here. You could read this as the man just went crazy and thought that the entity was telling him to do what he did. I really want to rewatch this one to see if the main character predicts something with what happens at the end. The ending has a military attack. I’m assuming it would be the Nazi invasion. What is interesting about this after my second viewing is the recommendation he gives during his trial for what he did. It is morbid and that is why he is locked away.
The fourth story comes from the United States and is called Beware the Melonheads. This begins with a warning that the Melonheads are a group of children that are living in the wilderness that are quite violent. A couple goes out to a cabin in the woods to get away for the weekend with their son. The parents are having problems and the child can see it. He befriends a boy in the woods whose face is hidden. When he tells his parents they are at first concerned, but end up believing it is an imaginary friend. It turns out that this boy is quite real and there are others.
This was the first misfire for me in terms of the stories they are telling. I think they should have probably gone with the Black Eyed Children, which is a chilling tale I’ve heard before. The look of the children in this one I thought was a little too comical. The tone of this short is also somewhat of a comedy and I don’t think it fit with the other stories that had come before and even after. The acting wasn’t the strongest either. What I did find interesting though was the parents arguing in front of the child. This can have some negative effects and I think we kind of get that here. The Melonheads play on that with him. Even if the Melonheads weren’t real, a child could use an imaginary friend due to dealing with the stress of his home life.
The next tale is Whatever Happened to Panagas the Pagan? This takes place on Christmas in Greece back in 1984. The atmosphere feels in how they celebrate the holiday and that even though Christianity had come to the area, this island doesn’t necessarily follow it. This is a visually atmospheric tale of what happens when the gate to the underworld opens and a goblin escapes.
This segment was a little bit odd to me. It wasn’t really scary like some of the other ones, but it definitely had an interesting feel that fit the film. This one I took was that it is this island resisting the new ways and wanting to embrace the past. Going even further though, there seems to be a mob mentality. It also seemed to be enjoying the darker side of things with what they do with the goblin and what someone does when they find the open gate as well. It was different and interesting for sure.
It comes next to a tale from India entitled The Palace of Horrors. This had a man who worked for the circus ran by the Ringling brothers. His job is to seek out new talent for the side show and this brings him to a Mad King’s palace out in the middle of the jungle. This King had been collecting those that were different and it gives this place an eerie vibe. The man hears about an entity that is kept in a space beneath a trap door. He demands to see it, even though he’s told that no one can set eyes upon it. This man won’t be told no though.
This story really intrigued me for a few reasons. The first one is the setting. We have a palace in the middle of nowhere and that setting is great. It is even scarier that it is filled with people that are different. Now I know that is horrible of me to say, but it is effective. This segment is also in black and white as well. It is interesting that I know there were side shows, but I never thought about it was someone’s job to seek out these people for it. This one is quite Lovecraftian and I can see that. Especially with why all of these oddities live here and whatever in the hidden space as well.
The seventh story is A Nocturnal Breath and it comes from Germany. This one has a dreamlike story and takes place in the 1780s. There is a brother and sister that live in the cabin. They are pretty isolated which helps the atmosphere. Something is inside her. It comes out as an evil mouse. The brother doesn’t want to hurt her, but when this creature touches things it ruins them. He has to make a decision for the survival of them both.
I actually didn’t mind this story and the premise was interesting. It has a slow burn type feel, which I’m a big fan of. The dilemma is good in that when your sibling, whom he dearly loves, but she has an evil presence within her. If this entity isn’t defeated, they are going to die as it is killing off their animals. It is a moral dilemma they have to deal with and I found it pretty interesting. Even more so what he decides to do to try to save them. It also interesting what she does as well.
The final story is from Hungary and it is called Cobbler’s Lot. This one definitely plays like a Grimm’s Fairy Tale. It is about two brothers who are both cobblers. The younger one is the better of the two and actually runs the family business. His brother is evil and hates his younger brother. They both fancy the princess and the younger brother tries to win her hand by going into the forest to retrieve this special flower. The problem is an enticing spirits there and his brother’s nefarious plan for the princess.
This was an interesting take actually. The segment is in color, but it is filmed like a silent film. The make-up makes them look like actors from the era and they overacting which they had to since they couldn’t convey with their words, which I happened to really enjoy. As I said above, it has that fairy tale feel in that the king wants the younger brother to prove his love in order to have his daughter’s hand in marriage. This story takes quite a turn and I thought it was a pretty fitting end for how fairy tales actually go.
There isn’t a wraparound story, but I did still want to talk about the pacing. It can be hard to do when you have a series of stories that aren’t really connect in any way. I think for the most part the order is good. I might move a couple around here and there and it might make things flow a little bit better. Despite it’s almost two hour running time, I think it does move pretty well. I’m glad they ended with the story that they did, because that one did pull my interest in as it was starting to wane later in the film. Each of the stories really has about 15 minutes, which I think was a solid length for them as well.
Now with that said, I would say that this film isn’t bad. I thought most of the stories were interesting and the acting was pretty good as well for what they needed. I do feel the campiness of Beware the Melonheads was just a little bit out of place for the rest of the film. The effects for the film were good, didn’t have any issues there. The score of the film was diverse and fitting for what was needed throughout the film. I do think there are some issues, but still an interesting anthology from a bunch of different filmmakers and stories from around the world. That was probably my favorite aspect as well.
My Rating: 8 out of 10