Meeting Evil (US - DVD R1)
Gabe hitches a mediocre ride with a particularly distressing Samuel Jackson...
The same day mild-mannered John (Luke Wilson) loses his job, a mysterious man named Richie (Samuel Jackson) shows up at his door, asking for help with his stalled car. Richie reveals himself as something of a malcontent who knows much more about John than he possibly could as a random stranger. Soon he tricks the painfully polite family man into becoming an unwilling passenger on a murderous ride through town and deep into the countryside. John then finds himself the main suspect in regards to Richie’s crimes, and fears for the safety of his wife (Leslie Bibb) and kids.
Someday I will review a movie starring recognizable, nominally influential actors that saw little or no theatrical release and I will be impressed. I will quickly take to the internet and spread the word about this unfairly dumped, minor classic, and I will pray for an appropriate cult following. Today is not that day. Meeting Evil is based on Thomas Berger’s 1992 novel of the same name. Berger is known for rewriting the Arthurian legend in his book Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel, and he was also adapted in 1981 for Rocky director John G. Avildsen’s Neighbors, but is most famous for writing Little Big Man, which was, of course, made into a brilliant film by Arthur Penn. It’s probably unfair to compare Meeting Evil to something as monumental as Little Big Man, but I can’t help but notice similarities in character quirks and the treatment of archetypes. The problem here is that this particular story likely read well in 1992, but is incredibly predictable in a modern movie climate. In the end, the twist is not quite what audiences might be expecting, but so much emphasis is put on the lead-up to the reveal that there’s little reason to excuse the bits that bide time until the climax. There’s a hint of EC Comics morality behind the twist as well, which seems to imply that Berger’s story would’ve worked better in a shorter form, where there was no need to develop a middle act.
Director Chris Fisher is known mostly for his work on cable television, a pair of ‘true crime’ serial killer movies ( Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders and Nightstalker), and that sequel nobody wanted, S. Darko. He’s not exactly a talent on the rise, but just about everyone comes from humble roots. Fisher’s direction is perfectly capable, if not particularly noteworthy. Most of his stylistic choices reveal his television roots, but there’s really no reason to not keep things ‘small’ in this case. He unravels his predictable narrative efficiently, which helps to skirt past some of the coincidental happenings and keeps the tension ratcheted tight enough to elicit a handful of thrills. Besides his choice in adaptable material, Fisher’s biggest crime are his rather weak violence levels. If anything could’ve pushed such material beyond mediocrity it would be gonzo levels of creative gore. Actually, any influx of comedy would help this all too serious production. Sam Jackson appears to be the only person here having much fun. Both leads play the exact same characters they’ve played for decades now. Jackson largely gets by on his laurels, but Luke Wilson is miscast. His lack of personality would appear to fit the ‘everyman’ character he’s playing, but it only gives the audience less reason to care about him.
Once again, my eyes have grown too accustomed to the superior qualities of Blu-ray and HD television, leaving me to improperly judge standard-definition releases. But Sony has chosen not to expend the money to release Meeting Evil on Blu-ray, and I can’t really blame them, so I’m left to do my best to judge this anamorphic release on its own merits. Considering the format’s shortcomings I can find little to complain about. Compression noise is minimal, delegated mostly to minor blocking on the more vibrant colours, aliasing effects and some rather consistent edge enhancement. Close-up details are plenty sharp especially in terms of skin and clothing textures, but backgrounds are a bit smudged. This becomes a bigger problem when it comes to cinematographer Marvin V. Rush’s focus pulls, which are almost undetectable at times. Contrast levels are set pretty high, which is nice for the blacks, but leads to some blooming white levels. The colour palette changes pretty regularly throughout the film and these choices are usually presented as vibrant or desaturated as likely intended. The overall colour separation is clean aside from the usual SD shortcomings.
This Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is expectedly compressed in terms of volume levels, and there isn’t a whole lot in the way of directional enhancement, but on the whole I found that my expectations were matched. Dialogue is well centered and consistently clear. Sound effects are well placed, though there is an overall lack of ambience outside of the climax, where a generic-sounding thunderstorm gives the surrounds something constructive to do. The track is at its best when dealing in dramatic dynamic ranges, which often come up in regards to Jackson’s character, whose every motion is presented as threatening. Ryan Beveridge’s musical score has its moments, but mostly sounds like more made for TV fodder. The music, both source and score, is often the loudest thing on the track, and is given the biggest stereo spread, not to mention a sizable LFE bounce.
The only extras on this disc are a series of trailers for other Sony releases.
Meeting Evil would’ve probably made a decent episode of Tales from the Crypt or Masters of Horror or even a nice piece of a bigger anthology, but as a standalone feature it’s not particularly satisfying. I’d call it about as mediocre a film as humanly possible, and suggest viewers watch the original Hitcher instead. Both films share similar backdrops and themes. This DVD looks and sounds about as good as we can expect from a B-product released in standard definition, but features nothing in the way of film-specific extras.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 24th January 2012
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Mandarin and Korean
Easter Egg: No
Director: Chris Fisher
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Luke Wilson, Leslie Bibb, Peyton List
Length: 89 minutes
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