Whenever I see the “inspired by true events” label, I’m weary about the content within because that usually translates to – we took the most long forgotten story and added adrenaline to it until it became our movie. In the case of David Espinosa’s The Evil Down the Street, I can see how the story plays out like a neighborhood urban legend or as a casual haunting. I mean, I’d much rather believe that a cult opened a door which was closed but re-opened by a ouija board, over people getting dragged by their hair up the stairs by an invisible force. With The Evil Down the Street, a small family – wife, husband, two kids – moves into a new home that’s hiding a very dark history. Soon after their arrival, strange events plague the house, eventually leading to the mother, Katie, being possessed by a demonic spirit that forces her to terrorize her family. Written, directed and produced by David Espinosa with Craig Ahrens, The Evil Down the Street stars Kelton Jones, Alena Gerard, Tara Milante, Sophia Sparks, David Espinosa, Craig Ahrens, Deborah Ramaglia and Alain Azoulay. Find it streaming on Amazon Prime courtesy of Indie Rights and CRA Entertainment.
Here’s the thing about The Evil Down the Street. Despite some Amityville Horror type vibes, it was a very cookie cutter horror movie. I don’t think it was ever written and brought to screen with the intention of being Poltergeist or The Exorcist. It has the typical haunting/possession story troupes – strange noises, ominous music, momentary possession, the usage of a ouija board and a previous cult – but I don’t see any attempt to wow its target audience with intense fright. Even one balls to the walls scene or hair-raising finale would have greatly propelled this movie to “must see” material, but I’ll get to why I enjoyed The Evil Down the Street in a second. Because of the lack of actual horror elements, David Espinosa and Craig Ahrens’ movie reads like a mystery-drama with the occasional bizarre horror plot-line added in to keep things interesting. For instance, if you take out the haunting/possession scenes and filmed new scenes from a different genre, the movie would still look great and make sense. I hate to say “not scary enough” because that makes me sound snobby, but it is the fact of the matter. For this reason, I’m not sure who I would recommend this to besides infrequent viewers of the genre who are looking for a feature film that’s more tame.
The Evil Down the Street features cinematography by Nathan Votran and editing by Josh Booth. And the behind-the-scenes work is why I can say The Evil Down the Street is a step above the rest in terms of quality and production value. Its biggest strength is its locations, which allowed for some really beautiful visuals and interesting angles. That’s where I said “wow.” The cameramen and the visionary behind the production really have an eye for framing in the most artistic sort of way. It all looks so high class and the talent behind-the-scenes elevates The Evil Down the Street out of the independent film nook and into the big leagues. It’s a shame it is receiving such an uneventful release, but I chalk that up to having a somewhat uneventful plot. Anyway, when you throw in amazing acting performances from the lead performers, which were also above and beyond anything you’d expect to find in indie world, The Evil Down the Street has all the key components to be something bigger than it ended up being. If the horror volume was tuned up several notches, it could have easily been a subgenre sleeper hit. Instead, it ended up being a well-polished, expertly filmed and performed piece of cinema that won’t keep the attention of its target audience.
A paranormal thriller? Debatable. A paranormal drama? Yes. Good, but nothing spectacular. Final Score: 5 out of 10.