History of Evil (2024)
February 24, 2024 8:23 PM - Subscribe

2045: In the backwoods of an America ruled by right wing militia groups, a small family of resistance fighters takes refuge in a remote house that may be more dangerous than the world outside.
posted by kittens for breakfast (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is not a perfect movie, but it does so much right that I'm willing to handwave its flaws -- largely a rushed, anticlimactic third act that leaves a lot of money on the table. Frankly, I'm used to modern movies -- especially modern, A24-era horror movies -- having no real idea how to wrap up, and, well, at least this one doesn't waste time. So, you know, whatever. I don't know why the house (ostensibly possessed by the ghost of a malevolent redneck) chose to immediately skinamarink the militia guys, who if anything were on the same side as the house, when the worst thing it did to the interracial liberal family was I guess kidnap their dog (?), but again, whatever. I don't care. Those guys sucked and it was great to see them get murdered.

A lot of movies try to do the Pontypool trick of creating a whole immersive world in crisis more or less out of nothing but suggestion, but here it totally works.

The creepy drones are a stroke of genius. When you know that a real, ill-agendaed device could appear around any corner, you've primed the audience to stay on edge and watch closely. This sense of paranoia is exactly what makes a haunted house story run.

I could say more, but I'm pretty beat. Shudder originals are...um...not always so terrific, but this one is pretty solid.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:40 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]

I've been curious about this since I opened it on Shudder and saw a long run of one-star reviews by people that come across as MAGA goofballs calling it "woke" and "communist". Since everything they hate is good, I'm assuming this must be great.
posted by Shepherd at 3:05 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]

"Great" is strong -- the more I think about it, the more the film feels like an elliptical, surface-skimming adaptation of a deep and well-developed novel (which doesn't exist, but I'd read it if it did exist!) -- but I'm pretty sure the MAGAs are not objecting to it for artistic reasons.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:58 AM on February 25

I've been curious about this since I opened it on Shudder and saw a long run of one-star reviews by people that come across as MAGA goofballs calling it "woke" and "communist". Since everything they hate is good, I'm assuming this must be great.

Ebert.com also gave it a one-star review - although not for being "woke", but from the sound of it, for having a blunt and clobber-you-over-the-head script.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:02 AM on February 25

Now that I'm a little more alert, I can say that the film works quite well as a suspense piece; it sets the mood by creating a plausible world where danger lurks around every corner, and then shifts that mood to a haunted house. YMMV as to whether the subtle chills of a haunting work for you, but for me, priming the audience to be on high alert in the first act was a choice that really paid off.

As far as the script being heavy-handed goes...man, I wish I still felt like there was something implausible or outlandish about guys in trucker hats hunting brown people with shotguns under the aegis of an approving US government, but this isn't 2015 anymore. It must be nice to live in a world where that's an idea that can be laughed off. I don't live in that world.

The big problem with this movie is that it seems to be missing about thirty minutes of pretty important material. I can sort of accept how little we come to know about the people who lived in the house originally; the world is mysterious, right? And in real life you won't necessarily find a hastily scrawled but elaborately detailed diary that explains it all. But we learn just enough that I feel like we should learn way more, not least being why exactly the house would turn murderous on the people who appear to share its beliefs. It also bothers me a little that the film's focus drifts over to Ron more or less exclusively for a long time; once we get back to Allegra, Daria and Trudy, they feel one dimensional. But at the same time, the film feels distant from Ron once he makes his heel turn, and I'm left not really relating to anyone, on the outside. Allegra's speech at the end -- as the survivors drive off, presumably to be killed by the first patrol that crosses their path -- does feel heavy-handed and didactic, when it should feel transcendent, and might if we still related to Allegra as a character and not as a Symbol.

That said, I don't think it's a movie to be blown off. It's not a dumb exploitation piece or a preachy failure, and (for the most part) it's not just propaganda. I do suspect it may be the victim of a merciless edit to get it to a low runtime, but I'm not sure.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:19 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]

I admired the ambition this had in marrying a "spooky bartender from The Shining turns you against your family" scenario with a near-future conservative red-state dystopia, but ultimately didn't think it succeeded. Like, the racist ghost and the racist government obviously have things in common, but I'm not sure that either aspect really comments on the other in any meaningful way.

I think part of the problem is that we don't really get to know the character of Ron at all before he is seduced to the dark side, so it's a little hard to tell what's going on with him. Is he particularly vulnerable to the ghost because of his past? (We never find out, as far as I remember.) Is the movie saying that the possibility to turn towards racist evil exists in all men?

It's kind of weird to watch him go from stressed-out dad in a bad situation, to passive-aggressive sniping, and then to straight-up violence, from nothing but some conversations with a ghost. The remarks the ghost makes about "preserving the culture" and other dog-whistle canards seem like they wouldn't be remotely convincing to the earliest version of Ron that we see, so I guess I sort of assumed there was some ghostly mind-control happening to change Ron's mind, but again it's hard to say since we don't really know what Ron is like.
posted by whir at 1:05 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]

I haven't finished watching this yet but I do have to stop in and say it took me a minute to place the female lead. She's Flaca from Orange Is the New Black!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:43 AM on May 13

I was very into the world-building about fascism and militias. I was even okay with it when it pivoted away from that into the haunted house story.

But dang, they really thought they were giving us something intense with the scenes where Cain/the house try to bring Ron over, and uh, they're not so great.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:43 PM on May 13

I have a feeling a lot of people dropped when the movie shifted from the realistic macro portrayal of a fascist US to the micro handling of a weak man being corrupted. But I totally get where they were going, the connection they were making.

The problem is: there really isn't a single horror beat in this movie that lands. Not one.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:20 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

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