Meeting Evil (2012) Magnet Releasing/Suspense-Thriller RT: 89 minutes Rated R (language, strong violence, gory images, adult situations, mature themes) Director: Chris Fisher Screenplay: Chris Fisher Music: Ryan Beveridge Cinematography: Marvin V. Rush Release date: May 4, 2012 (US) Starring: Luke Wilson, Samuel L. Jackson, Leslie Bibb, Peyton List, Muse Watson, Tracie Thoms, Ryan Lee.
Sometimes a smaller movie comes out of nowhere and it turns out to be a nice little surprise, Meeting Evil is the coolest S-BIG (So Bad It's Great) flick to come along in a while. In the grand tradition of B-movie thrillers, it tells the story of an ordinary man whose quiet life gets a serious kick in the ass by the arrival of a mysterious and malevolent stranger. That this stranger is played by a menacing-looking Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) makes the encounter all the more disturbing. Sporting a black fedora and wearing a black suit, he resembles a cross between a preacher and a 1920s gangster (he even does a great Edward G. Robinson impression). He shows up at the door of milquetoast John Felton (Wilson, The Royal Tenenbaums) claiming that his car broke down. Felton, a real estate agent, has a whole laundry list of problems- he hasn't sold a house in a while, he's up to his eyeballs in bills and debt, there's a foreclosure notice nailed to his front door and he's just been fired. All of this has had a negative effect on his marriage to Joanie (Bibb, Iron Man), a cold-hearted woman who berates her husband ("Maybe your best isn't good enough!") instead of reassuring him after a bad day at work. Also, she might be having an affair with the pool guy.
John agrees to help Richie get back on the road ..... BIG mistake! He gets injured in the process (it's not exactly an accident) and Richie says that he'll drive him to the hospital. But first he needs to get gas, so they pull into a gas station/convenience store where the attendant provides poor customer service, she has the audacity to ask Richie for ID when he hands her a credit card and she chews gum while on the job. Richie decides to exercise his rights as a dissatisfied customer and he goes into the store to complain to the manager. I'm going to stop here and ask you a question ....... how do think this turns out? For that matter, how will any encounter in a movie called Meeting Evil turn out? After a series of violent and bloody incidents, John finally realizes that his new found buddy has quite a propensity for violence. Unfortunately, the detectives investigating the bloodbath at the gas station see John as their only suspect, all evidence points towards him, a disillusioned man who's finally snapped under all the stress and pressure. While the police hunt for John, he tries to put a stop to the violent sociopath's murder spree, especially after he threatens to harm his family.
Meeting Evil plays a lot like the creepy 1986 suspense-thriller The Hitcher with just a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe (listen to the opening music). Who is this malevolent stranger and what does he have against John? Why is he making the man's life a living hell? Is he trying to teach him to be more assertive? To be less of a wimp? Is he trying to punish him for something, like his brief affair with an attractive co-worker, Tammy (List, Mad Men)? For that matter, is Richie even real or is he a figment of John's imagination/damaged psyche a la Fight Club? These questions run through the movie and they're more or less answered by the time the closing credits roll. However, Meeting Evil is one of those movies where ..... PLOT SPOILER ALERT! ..... the filmmakers leave the viewer thinking about its ambiguous ending. Yep, it's one of those endings where strong arguments can be made for either side, just like The Hitcher.
One could argue that Meeting Evil attempts to make a statement about the financial situation that has affected many Americans over the past several years, but why examine this piece of schlocky pulp that closely? It's rally nothing more than an enjoyably bad thriller with hysterical overacting and dopey dialogue. John issues a warning to Richie, "Don't mistake my kindness for weakness and the antagonist, with a stone cold glare, responds "What should I mistake it for?". It's goofy dialogue exchanges like this that make this flick a quintessential guilty pleasure. Jackson turns in a great over-the-top performance as the frightful bad guy, he even makes a scary snarly face at John's children at one point. He also racks up an impressively high (and bloody) body count, but in this instance, most of the victims pretty much deserve what they get, they're all rude and annoying individuals- a disgusting cell phone store employee who keeps stuffing doughnuts into her mouth, a loudmouth waitress and the aforementioned gas pump jockey. Richie seems to have taken a page from Hannibal Lecter's book in going after "the free range rude".
Wilson turns in a decent performance as a non-confrontational nebbish forced into a violent situation. Whereas Jackson overacts to the point of unintentional comedy, Wilson underplays the role and delivers a comparatively subtle performance. Muse Waton (I Know What You Did Last Summer) and Tracie Thoms (Death Proof) are great as the two detectives on the case, they try to wrangle a confession out of John as he tries to convince them of his innocence and exchange typical law enforcement-style banter a la Law & Order. There's a great scene where Joanie verbally tears apart the female detective as she tries to question her about the case and finishes her off by offering her a low-fat Girl Scout cookie. MEOW! Meeting Evil is an entertainingly bad B-movie, one that's much more fun than many of the more conventional thrillers that one might see at the local multiplex. I would call this one a guilty pleasure, it shouldn't be this much fun, yet I found myself enjoying it immensely. While the central relationship isn't as powerfully disturbing as the one between Rutger Hauer and C. Thomas Howell, it's still enough to leave the audience feeling ill at ease. Writer/director Chris Fisher does a pretty effective job at conveying the horror of such an unbelievable situation and presenting the audience with a good campy three-star flick. Give it a chance, see what you think, what do you have to lose besides 89 minutes of your life?