This political allegory starring mutilated children and cannibalism was just as pleasant as Judge Neal Solon expected it would be. Air sickness bags, anyone?
The chilling story of the Soviet Union's most notorious serial killer…
In an interview included as an extra on TLA's release of the film Evilenko, director David Grieco reflects on all of the things that he wanted to wrap into a story he started more than a decade ago about a Russian serial killer. He says, "It would have been difficult to tell all of this in a movie, thus I wrote a novel." More than ten years later, he remained unconvinced that anyone else would have the sensitivity to film such a story. So, Grieco went back and tried his hand at it again. Why he abandoned his first instinct, I don't know. But he shouldn't have.
Facts of the Case
Andrei Evilenko (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange) is a Soviet man, a card-carrying member of the Communist party who has devoted himself to his politics and to his job as a schoolteacher. As his Communist Soviet Union begins to collapse, a secret awakes within him. Evilenko soon discovers that he derives carnal pleasure only from the mutilation of young boys and girls. In this moment, a serial killer is born. Having long claimed that serial killers were solely a Western phenomenon, the Soviet government and Detective Lesiev (Marton Csokas, Aeon Flux, Kingdom of Heaven) are intent on finding this killer and stopping him.
Andrei Evilenko is loosely based on an actual serial killer from the Soviet Union named Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo. Chikatilo was found to have mutilated and eaten more than fifty children, aided in some ways by the Soviet Union's reluctance to admit that serial killers existed within their society. The story of Evilenko's main character stays true to life, at least as far as these details. Otherwise, director Grieco takes some liberties, modeling the story on Chikatilo but not feeling beholden to it.
Surprisingly, taking an intriguing real-life story and diluting it is not Evilenko's main shortcoming. The film falls short, as many do, because it's not really sure what it's trying to say or how it's going to say it. Writer and director David Grieco seems most interested in the film as a sort of metaphor, with Evilenko's mental decline and his deepening perversions paralleling the crumbing of the Communist system around him. Grieco seems so enamored with these parallels that the action that plays out on screen gets short shrift.
Andrei Evilenko has an uncanny knack for getting children to follow him, somewhat magically. In fact, we see Andrei walking out to deserted places a number of times with a young woman on his heels, following him, uncoerced, only to find the young woman dead minutes later. Why she followed him, we don't know. We also never get a glimpse of Evilenko's internal motivation nor the external, public terror he causes.
Typical serial killer films take one of two approaches; they are either played for shock value or as psychological thrillers. Evilenko does neither. Evilenko's actions occur in a way that's so manner of fact that the portrayal lacks emotion. The film feels as cold as we imagine Evilenko himself must be. That's not to say that Malcolm McDowell doesn't create a believable character in Evilenko. He does. In fact, if there is any reason to watch Evilenko, Malcolm McDowell is it. The other main actors, too, give good performances, but they are not given much to work with. The characters are largely one-dimensional and seem suited only for advancing the none-too-surprising plot. Without motivation or terror or historical accuracy, there is little else to recommend this film.
Neither does this disc give the viewer much reason to revisit it. At its best, the DVD offers decent video quality and workable audio, though some of audio dubbing choices made by the filmmakers are quite apparent. The two, primary extras are exhausting in their banality and repetition. The first is an 81-minute long "interview" with members of the cast and crew. In theory, an interview is a dialogue of sorts. In practice, this "interview" piece is a series of overlong monologues by individuals involved with the film. There are a few interesting moments, but not enough to warrant 81-minutes of your time. The second extra is presented as the story of the real life Evilenko: Andrei Chikatilo. In the end this, too, ends up being about the film, and it recycles "interview" footage we've already seen. Included for good measure are trailers for other TLA DVDs and the original trailer for Evilenko.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is one little touch on this disc that, though miniscule, is worth mentioning. In an unsettling but inspired move, each of the of the chapters on the disc is named after a victim of the real-life serial killer Andrei Chikatilo. The names appear, with ages and the dates of the murders in chronological order, marking the chapters of the film and the progression of the killer's illness. This is just one of the subtle touches that makes TLA's presentation of the Evilenko creepier than the film itself.
It is good to see Malcolm McDowell center-stage again. It's just too bad it had to happen this way.
Andrei Chikatilo was convicted and executed more than a decade ago. While I'm not sure exactly how you can shoot a film in the back of the head, Evilenko is guilty, too.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
• An 81-minute Interview Piece with Cast and Crew
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