Evie (Frightfest 2021) review

By David Dent

Outside of his Paddy Dingle character in the long running soap ‘Emmerdale’, for nearly a decade now Dominic Brunt has been building up a CV directing modest but effective regionally focused fright flicks, mingling the mundane with the terrifying. It’s been a while since his last 2017’s ‘Attack of the Adult Babies’, a bizarre, surreal but blistering attack on the class system made, apparently, as an angry riposte to a major film deal that fell through at the last minute.

‘Evie’ sees a return to the more prosaic character setup of his earlier films. The titular Evie, when we first meet her, is a young girl playing on a beach (co-director Jamie Lundy’s daughter Honey) with her brother Tony (Danny-Lee Mitchell-Brunt, the director’s son), seemingly happy and carefree. Wandering among the local caves, she finds an amulet (from which she is afterwards inseparable) and has an unspecified encounter with something – or someone – which afterwards leaves her sullen, taciturn and increasingly volatile.

Twenty three years later we meet Evie as a grown woman (Holli Dempsey), dissatisfied in a dead-end insurance job and seeking – and failing – to find a connection with the opposite sex courtesy of a series of one night stands. In fact the only solace Evie achieves, other than chats with a workmate friend, is in alcohol; the intervening years have seen Evie taken into care and, finally, spat out into the world of adults. Is it the system that has failed her, or is she just spiritually doomed?

Her brother Tony (now played by Jay Taylor) makes contact with her, desiring to reconnect. Their reuniting is a trigger for Evie to confront painful memories of childhood, and to face the truth of what happened that day on the beach.
I’m not sure whether it was the result of pandemic filming conditions, a paucity of available time or maybe a lack of confidence with the subject matter, but ‘Evie’ is Brunt’s weakest film. Plot turns feel forced and unnatural (in contrast with the authentically remote and credible production design) and Dempsey’s adult version of the haunted Evie fails to convince. The background myth of the selkie (a seal like creature from Celtic and Norse mythology with the ability to change into a human) is atmospheric in itself, but rather leadenly applied; for most of its running time ‘Evie’ is a downbeat drama which finally and rather bluntly resolves itself into a horror movie. I could see what Brunt was trying to achieve but that intention got lost, making this for the most part an awkward and unfulfilling movie.

Evie screened at this year’s Arrow Video Frightfest 2021.

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