Kennedy (Jessica Morris) is a pretty blonde student who wants to break into filmmaking. Along with her cameraman friend James (Jeff Adler) and horny sound technician Cory (Kaiwi Lyman), she manages to get approval from resistant movie producer Dirk (Michael Cline) to shoot a "Making Of" featurette on the set of his latest horror film.

Excitedly, the budding trio arrive at the shooting location – a creepy old asylum which closed down years earlier under mysterious circumstances – and immediately start to annoy everyone involved with the production.

The horror film's director Alec (Christian Edsall), for example, is incensed that these youths have been allowed onto the shoot without his prior consent. He’s also appalled that they don’t initially adhere to his filming condition that no-one should look him in the eye, let alone film him as he goes about his day job.

Elsewhere, his motley film crew have problems of their own: a lead actress who’s suspected of stealing beauty products from the make-up department; a catering lady (Kimberly Jurgen) who couldn’t organise a teddy bears’ picnic; a couple of special FX dudes who really don’t know the meaning of the term "team players" ...

So, naturally, Kennedy and her friends have plenty of fun stuff to shoot … but plenty to feel slightly disconcerted about too. Even more so, when they start glimpsing flashes of strange figures in the dark distance, helping to convince them that the asylum may actually be haunted by its dubious past …

Of course, the only way to truly find out whether there in mortal danger is for these intrepid (read: dumb) kids to take their cameras and audio equipment into the darkest nether regions of the spooky old building...

REEL EVIL is yet another entry in the tired and vastly over-populated ‘found footage’ horror sub-genre. It offers nothing new, but does at least breeze by quite briskly at just 77 minutes in length.

As a supposed documentary, it falls flat: slick camera edits and stage-school acting constantly betray any notion that we’re what we’re viewing is actual found footage. But it does compensate for these shortcomings, along with a shocking lack of originality, in other ways: this being a Full Moon feature, it’s blessed with the usual attractive (on a budget) studio lighting that we’ve come to expect from producer Charles Band, and – even better – the staple ingredients of minor gore and boobies (very nice ones, which first present themselves in the first 5 minutes) are dependably present.

The protagonists are unlikeable wise-crackers, while the faux film’s cast and crew are largely hostile for the duration. So, if you enjoy attaching yourself emotionally to characters in a bid to heighten any potential tension, you’ll be sorely short-changed here. But British viewers will no doubt be amused to find former stand-up comedian and double-bass player Jim Tavare in the role of the asylum's villainous Doctor (remember his TV show from the late 90s, in which a young Ricky Gervais had a regular sketch where he'd tell his son bedtime stories which would mutate into bitter rants against his cheating wife?).

If you can enjoy REEL EVIL for what it is (a shameless jump on the cheap ‘found footage’ bandwagon, albeit with a cheery low-budget eye on satisfying Full Moon regulars), then REEL EVIL can easily please on a superficial level.

Director Danny Draven cut his teeth editing several earlier features, and it's this skill that benefits REEL EVIL the most. He offers the occasional jump along the way, and keeps the action fast-paced if not entirely remarkable.

88 Films continue to do Full Moon Pictures proud with another nice DVD of one of their films.

In this instance, REEL EVIL is presented uncut and in a very healthy-looking anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer. Despite the naturally lo-fi aesthetics usually attributed to the ‘found footage’ genre, the picture quality here is satisfyingly strong: solid blacks, bold colours, stable definition etc.

English audio comes in both 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Either is just fine, offering clean and level playback throughout.

The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, a static scene-selection menu page allows access to the film via 12 chapters.

Extras begin with a decent audio commentary track from Draven, who's a nice enough chap and certainly enthusiastic about the end product. He's especially pleased with the creepy Los Angeles location. And rightly so, as the building used is the best character in the entire film. Draven is joined briefly at one point by scriptwriter Shane Bitterling via telephone, but this is ultimately the director's time to shine.

A 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette successfully highlights the light-hearted tone of the film’s shoot, despite its potentially oppressive setting. A mixture of on-set footage and direct quotes to camera, this makes for a worthy proposition for anyone interested.

"Darkest Hours" is another 20-minute featurette, this time documenting a visit to the film's set and featuring some decent contributions from the talented Mr Band.

"Darkest America" is a 10-minute tribute-cum-tour in honour of the Linda Vista Hospital, further accentuating the way in which a derelict building can easily outclass a cast of average actors.

A 2-minute blooper reel and 3-minute music video are little more than fluff, while a collection of five deleted scenes run for a total of 5 minutes and proffer little more than extra dialogue.

The usual "trailer park" offers a plethora of previews for other Full Moon titles currently available from the 88 Films roster. On this occasion, these are: CASTLE FREAK, PUPPET MASTER, STRIPPERS VERSUS ZOMBIES, TOURIST TRAP, PUPPET MASTER 2, CREEPOZOIDS, THE DEAD WANT WOMEN, SUBSPECIES, PUPPET MASTER 3 and PUPPET MASTER X: AXIS OF EVIL.

REEL EVIL is cheap, unoriginal and unconvincing as a 'found footage' flick. But it's also fun in its own unambitious way. It's certainly served well by 88 Films on this fine disc.

By Stuart Willis

Released by 88 Films
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review