History of Evil (2024)


History of Evil Review

“History of Evil,” is a very heavy, monotonous script that deals with hot button subjects without actually saying anything about them. However, it does seem like we’re going to see a bunch of movies about how divided the country has become in the 2020s — films like Alex Garland’s “Civil War” for instance — and hopefully this “Make America Scared Again” horror subgenre can contribute something to both political and cinematic conversations rather than just using controversial issues as Outrage Mad Libs. You really have to scrape away at the surface of “History of Evil” to find an idea that might’ve worked, and it just simply isn’t worth the effort.

That idea is basically a Southern version of “The Shining” about how it’s not the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel but rather racism in this country that infects an otherwise decent man. In this case, that man is named Ron (Paul Wesley), who lives in a dark future where right-wing evangelicals have taken over. The world has been divided up and overrun by them; according to an opening crawl set in 2045, they’ve been deputized into local militias with power over life and death on behalf of non-believers-killing corporations called North American Federation. And Ron is part of the Resistance, naturally. The movie starts with him trying to get his wife Alegre (Jackie Cruz), daughter Daria (Murphee Bloom) and ally Trudy (Rhonda Dents) through an enemy checkpoint — Alegre’s a wanted fugitive and political terrorist fighting against this new order, so getting her somewhere safe requires hiding out at an old house until they can be extracted.

Then “History of Evil” shifts from being a thriller into supernatural cautionary tale territory: Turns out there’s a racist ghost haunting this old house — he used to be involved with the KKK — who basically indoctrinates Ron in his belief system while they wait for rescue and dodge various groups of militia members. Imagine if the bartender from “The Shining” was an old racist, and you’ll have some idea of what writer/director Bo Mirhosseni is going for here: He wants to show how our country’s violent history can poison belief systems.

It’s not a bad notion, but the execution leaves much to be desired. In particular, every single performance in this movie is wooden, never once feeling grounded by dialogue or plotting that makes sense. Cruz and Dents sorta feel like they’re just sitting around off-camera waiting until they’re needed to reflect our protagonist’s collapse, and I’m not sure Wesley ever finds the right register for what should be a descent into madness — he mostly looks bored when he needs to look scared or twisted. This should almost be like a Southern Gothic, a nightmare that charts the disintegration of one man under the weight of all this evil history; none of it lands with any impact at all. It’s perplexingly flat when it should be anything but if it wants to work at all.

Also, one of the things that makes me mad about it is how people act in general while following scripts for this genre. For example, a character explains to the main characters that they are hiding in this house because “people are terrified of it”, and no one bothers asking themselves why that might be. Mirhosseni seems to be scared of his own thoughts more than anything else which is the worst part. Because there is some truth behind it – those who can only be described as evil according to certain theories tend to live their lives dwelling on what has happened before but unfortunately for us all everything goes downhill from here since this movie gets stuck with its own terrible ideas too almost deliberately so.

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