Ellis Reed reviews Evie by Dominic Brunt and Jamie Lundy, which premièred at the 2021 Arrow Video FrightFest...
Few soap fans will be aware of the fact that Paddy Dingle, né Kirk, the long-serving vet from Emmerdale, also dabbles in the world of indie horror
For some years now, TV actor Dominic Brunt has been the ‘Brunt’ half of Mitchell-Brunt Films, along with wife and fellow filmmaker Joanne Mitchell. As a director, he’s covered a lot of stylistic ground in just a handful of features. Before Dawn (UK, Brunt, 2013) combined the drama of an imploding relationship with the added threat of zombies. Bait (UK, Brunt, 2014) was a violent thriller about a loan shark, while Attack of the Adult Babies (UK, Brunt, 2017) was every bit as bonkers as it sounds. His latest film, written and directed with Jamie Lundy, is different again: a melancholy tale of buried trauma and supernatural dread, set around a house on the English coast.
Evie (UK, Brunt/Lundy, 2021) is very much a slow burn, but it’s a fine example of the form. Young Evie (Honey Lundy) plays on a windswept beach with her brother, Tony (Danny-Lee Mitchell-Brunt). One day, she wanders off and finds a discarded necklace with a rune. When she begins to wear it, her behaviour becomes increasingly wayward, putting a visible strain on her church-going family. She’s also strangely possessive, showing hints of a Gollum-esque attachment to her new trinket.
We then jump to the present, where Evie (Holli Dempsey) is, to put it mildly, all over the place. She’s a functioning alcoholic with a boring job, a loyal best friend, and a string of one night stands to her name. Her brother Tony (Jay Taylor) is an awkward loner who owns a boat and writes novels. They haven’t seen each other since they were children, and when they reconnect, it’s clear that they are equally damaged in different ways.
The film has many plus points, but two in particular keep the viewer invested. The first is the acting, which is very good – especially (but not solely) in the title role. Dempsey uses her face to convey deep reserves of hope and sadness, which aren’t always present in the character’s words or actions. In her capable hands, Evie is highly relatable and utterly enigmatic, and the paradox makes for compelling viewing.
Aside from Evie, the child actors do fantastic work in their roles, and the whole cast brings a level of quality that you don’t always get with indie horror. When Evie says ‘it’s all so sad,’ we feel it in our bones to be true, because the performances make it real. It’s a great example of how much quality the right cast will add to a modestly-sized production.
The second big plus is the film’s central mystery, which keeps circling back to an implied childhood tragedy. We know that something terrible happened to tear the family apart, but what it is, and how much Evie remembers, are left to dangle. Like Evie herself, the film is reluctant to confront its trauma head-on, approaching it sideways through suggestive flashbacks and a steady drip of revelations. The resulting slow reveal is the meat of the story, and it kept me hooked till the very end.
For my money, those are film’s main selling points, but there are others. The locations are fantastic, and the cinematography does them justice, thanks to some sterling work by TV veteran Edward Ames. I streamed Evie as part of the FrightFest ‘digital bit’, but I’m sure it looked amazing on IMAX, for those who had the good fortune of seeing it on the big screen. The film also benefits from a haunting score by Thomas Ragsdale, who is one of Brunt’s frequent collaborators.
Ultimately, if you’re in the mood for a slow-burn chiller with some great acting, a tantalising mystery, and a long, lingering finish, then Evie gets a big thumbs-up from me. The resolution of the story is nice and clear on the most important points, but a second viewing might be rewarding for ‘plot completists’. For my own part, I’m eager to revisit a scene in the local history museum, because I think its significance will be clearer the second time around.
Some people might find the climax tonally jarring, and there’s an alternative ending they could have gone for – it’s hard to say what, without spoiling the one they did go for – but I’m glad they didn’t. I can’t really say much more about that, so I urge you to watch the film and decide for yourself. Make a beeline for it at festivals, or when it comes out on general release, because it’s a goodie.