Siege of Evil
- Straight to Video
- Director: Jeff Carney
- Written by: Jeff Carney
- Running Time: 84 minutes
- Language: English
- MPAA Rating: UNRATED
- Cast: Desiree Muse, Scott Nauman, Amelia Foster, Jerry Wolking, Jim Seward, Barbara Engstrom, Jenaya Carman, Denise Yoder, Patti Flaherty
In recent years, ghost hunting in darkened buildings, with selectively second-rate cameras and electronic devices somehow fine-tuned to capture fleeting glimpses of supposed inter-dimensional beings, have become big business, and Jeff Carney's "Siege of Evil", filmed in 2003, seemed to arrive at the beginning of that fad -- before all the para-reality tv insanity really caught hold. A happy accident? Maybe. Considering that Carney's previous effort, "The Shadow People", was also about ghosts, it's easy to surmise that he has more than a passing interest in the paranormal, and in last couple of years, he's sought to transfer that interest into a pair of films. "Siege of Evil" is, of course, one of those films.
Tasked with caring for her ailing cancer-stricken mother, a young woman, Susan Logan (Desiree Muse), chooses to take her mind off of things by indulging in a little ghost hunting fun; more specifically, going to supposed haunted locations and attempting to record disembodied voices or E.V.P.s (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). In much the same way Michael Keaton's "White Noise" used E.V.P.s as a launch pad for a much larger ghost thriller, this one functions in much the same way. It's interesting to note that Carney himself admits that he was inspired to write "Siege of Evil" after screening "White Noise", even giving it a nod on the film's DVD cover and promotional material. I have to say, I think I liked this more.
After accidentally arriving upon an old out-of-the-way church located in some wooded area just off the highway, Susan and her paranormal enthusiast friend Barry (Jim Seward) decide it would be the perfect staging ground for a hunt. Susan's husband, Mark (Scott Naumann), isn't nearly as enthused about the idea of spirit tracking, thinking it all a bunch of nonsense, but he agrees to wait in the car for Barry and his wife as they do their thing. Fairly uneventful on the surface, the ghost hunting session ends with Susan being called away to deal with her deathly ill mother. Barry stays behind to gather the equipment and that's when he realizes, fatally, that the church is more than just an empty building. Oh, no. Yes, as it turns out the abandoned church was actually a recreational area for a trio of long deceased (I think?) Satanists who linger on in the form of a demonic cloud/mist (cue from memory that scene from "Night of The Demons"; "Demons never existed in human form. They're pure evil. They're demons.") So, okay, maybe they aren't demons but they want to be. Regardless, it's clear that whatever these things are, they're really keen on freeing themselves from their spirit realm prison, and they see Susan as a means to achieve that end. It never specifically clarifies how that works but, hey, who cares? It works to move the story into its next phase.
The black mist follows Susan back to her suburban home where it begins to wreak havoc on her (and her kin) in all sorts of devious (and strangely sexy) ways. Literally only weeks from death, Susan's Mom (Patti Flaherty), is the first to see the shadowy beings hovering about her room but the daughter just chalks it up to her medication, well, that is she plays back the recording Barry and her made at the church. Ominous-sounding voices erupt onto the audio where previously nothing was heard, threatening in no uncertain terms to... dun dun dun... kill her. Yessir, it's enough to make Susan want to reach out to the local church for help, and she does. Sadly, these demons don't play fair. They apparently can take on the form of people Susan knows (namely a helpful Priest, insurance agent or even Susan's family members). Susan's sister, Kathy (Amelia Foster), finds herself the victim of form manipulation as Barry complains that she came on to him in the basement. Too bad she was gone most of the day. Oh, and she's been having problems of her own, namely with a pesky too-friendly python who just wants to cuddle up with her as she catches some zzzz's. Eventually things begin to spin out of control for the Logan's and, thankfully, Carney resists the temptation to pull his punches as the film draws to a close. The typically melancholy climaxes that usually result from movies where good faces off against evil, doesn't factor in here. Not this time. And what a pleasent surprise too.
According to his website, "Siege of Evil" writer, director and producer Jeff Carney started making movies when he was 10 years old and over the next 22 years he hasn't looked back. His credits include lots of television work as well as jobs on 18 films of all variety; everything from mega-budget Hollywood blockbusters like Kevin Costner's "Field of Dreams" to the cult documentary, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre A Family Portrait" to his own independently funded titles like "The Shadow People", "The Creeper" and "Autopsy of the Dead". Sadly, "Siege of Evil" remains the only one of his half-dozen self-produced titles to be officially released and marketed internationally on Mill Creek Entertainment's Pendulum Pictures line (the 'Tomb of Terrors' 50 movie box set, specifically). It's too bad. If this is any indication, he's got plenty of talent.
With it's twisty-turning story and uncompromised ending, this film remains surprisingly enjoyable despite its modest budget, choppy editing and sometimes amateurish acting. Carney handles the idea of a family dealing with a loved one who is slowly dying of cancer with a surprising realism. In fact, that aspect of the film, with all of its stark ugliness (a scene of the mother vomiting is shockingly powerful) and trauma, almost overwhelms the remainder of the film which could be a good or a bad thing depending on where you are on the gore hound vs horror fan scale. Thankfully, Carney has the good sense to pull back and re-focus on the ghost story at hand; and the grief expressed by the characters only adds to the tension and atmospherics of the film. The sense of dread is ever-present, almost from the second Susan gets a surprise visit from a certain evil-eyed beauty (Barbara Engstrom) at her home. For all these reasons, "Siege of Evil" ranks as one of the better indie ghost-stalker flicks I've seen, and trust me, over the last few years, I've seen a lot. On the downside, the CGI leaves a lot to be desired, and should have been avoided at all costs; but when your budget is smaller than that of the typical Craft service bill of a big Hollywood movie, it's easy to forgive. Also watch for Jenaya Carman in her first and last film role. Even though she has less screen time than it typically takes to blink, it was good enough for her to win a Scream Queen award. Yeah, now that's what I call making an impression.