Director: Dominic Brunt, Jamie Lundy
Writer: Dominic Brunt (screenplay), Jamie Lundy (original story)
Cast: Holli Dempsey, Jay Taylor, Michael Smiley, Joanne Mitchell, Liam McMahon, Honey Lundy, Danny-Lee Mitchell-Brunt
Producers: Joanne Mitchell
Music: Thomas Ragsdale
Cinematographer: Edward Ames
Editor: Andrew McKee
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 90mins
What’s the story: Troubled by the events of her traumatic childhood, Evie (Dempsey) returns home to reunite with her brother, Tony (Taylor).
What’s the verdict: Over the past eight years, soap star Dominic Brunt has channeled his love of horror cinema into four directorial outings. Previous films Before Dawn, Bait and The Attack of the Adult Babies have their detractors, but they reveal an ambition and verve beyond their modest budgets.
Evie, co-directed with Jamie Lundy who also provided the original story, is Brunt’s best to date. Addiction, familial trauma, folkloric horror, and possible supernatural goings-on weave together in a film both painful and compelling. Featuring the directors’ family members, bringing a meta-level of creation to this tale of destruction.
As played by Honey Lundy (the co-director’s daughter), we see the tween Evie shift from inquisitive to withdrawn and disruptive, earning the nickname “Freaky Evie.” She reacts violently to being in church, disturbing a sermon given by soft-voiced priest, Father Robert (Smiley). Under the strain the family fractures, leading to a shocking incident involving Evie’s mum (Mitchell, Brunt’s wife) and brother Tony (Mitchell-Brunt, the director and actor’s son). Followed by a shocking after-effect with her dad (McMahon).
Does a pendant inscribed with runes that Evie found on the beach have anything to do with her personality shift? As an adult, played by Holli Dempsey, Evie is barely holding down a thankless office job, jumping from one joyless hook-up to the next and self-medicating with wine and vodka. Into her life returns Tony (Taylor), inviting Evie to stay in their coastal family home again to reunite and revisit events from their past.
Sensitive and frequently beautiful in visuals, performance and script, Evie finds its horror in the quieter moments of someone recovering from a tragic past. Dempsey delivers a heartbreaking performance of compartmentalised damage. Despite managing to shape something resembling a normal life, revelations peppering the story colour this impression.
Brunt (who wrote the screenplay) and Lundy use the supernatural suggestion of the selkie, that mermaid sea-creature, as a metaphor for the demons of addiction and guilt destroying the eponymous character. The film’s haunting widescreen visuals play into elemental forces battering the young woman, chiefly the sea, to which she is drawn back as an adult. The directors also know how to tease information through revelatory dialogue and when to withhold. In several scenes Thomas Ragsdale’s foreboding score swells on the soundtrack, smothering the dialogue to complement the appalled looks on Mitchell and McMahon’s faces as Evie turns monstrous.
The film’s drama plays so emotionally rich, it is something of a shame Evie ultimatley tips into overt horror. A few key shots erase the ambiguity that would have made the movie completely satisfying, but do not undo the excellent earlier work.
“It’s all so sad,” the adult Evie tells Tony at one point. True, but the movie is also a big next step in Brunt’s directorial journey.