With its striking visuals and beautiful acting, Evil never loses its grip on realism.
Evil is the 1950’s story of Erik (Andreas Wilson), a troubled youth sent to boarding-school to try to rescue a place in the sixth form and escape his violent stepfather. His high hopes of a new start are violently squashed by the hierarchy of prefects who control school law through brutal punishments.
Erik soon finds himself pitted against the senior student Otto (Gustaf Skarsgård) in a battle for respect. Otto has violence on his side (a chilling scene sees him bind Erik to the sports field, douse him in hot and cold water then leave him there overnight) while Erik has cunning. As his notoriety grows, the stakes in this battle of will go through the roof…
Evil contains some scenes of real ingenuity. Example: as his stepfather beats Erik in the next room in one of their ‘little talks’, his mother plays a piano to the sound of the blows; a desperate attempt to block out the sound. Sure, matching classical music to disturbing scene is no startling originality, but it’s striking to vivid effect. As we watch his mother striking away at the piano, the sound of the skin-tearing belt is enough to throw the imagination into overdrive.
But if the graphic imagery is relentless, it never becomes overpowering. Like a good horror director, Mikael Håfström knows that suggestion is far more potent than shock tactics. And that’s not to say it’s a bloodless affair, either: one of the most disturbing scene sees Erik let Otto beat enough crimson out of his face to fuel the NHS for a week.
Over-dramatic at times? Definitely. Violently compelling? Definitely. With its striking visuals and beautiful acting, Evil never loses its grip on realism. If you see a foreign film this year, make it this one.
An Academy Award nomination leaves this film as one of the most eagerly anticipated foreign films of the year.
Unashamedly violent with bold ideas which sometimes get a little too extreme.
The graphic imagery leaves an imprint on memory which is hard to erase. But it’ll struggle to perform well at the box office.