Though Flawed, The Field Guide To Evil Is A Must-See For True Horror Fans

Reviewed by Kristy Puchko

Among my most anticipated films at the SXSW Conference was The Field Guide to Evil. The film festival section of SXSW tends to boast stellar horror in their Midnighters slate. But this title, in particular, stood out, packing together filmmakers responsible for some of the most inventive, darkly funny, and deeply twisted debuts in the past decade. Austrian writer/directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala teamed up for the electrifying Goodnight Mommy, a psychological thriller about twin boys who suspect their mother is not what she seems. Polish helmer Agnieszka Smoczynska directed the trippy and feral horror-musical The Lure, which centers on a pair of man-eating mermaids who become a cabaret sensation. And these were just three of the talents asked to make horror shorts for this tantalizing title!

The Field Guide To Evil invited nine filmmakers to create horror vignettes; each inspired by the folklore a different nation, most from their homelands. On top of Smoczynska, Franz and Fiala’s contributions, the film boasts shorts from America’s Calvin Lee Reeder (The Rambler), Germany’s Katrin Gebbe (Nothing Bad Can Happen), Turkey’s Can Evrenol (Baskin), India’s Ashim Ahluwalia (Miss Lovely), Greece’s Yannis Veslemes (Norway), and Hungary-based English helmer Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy). Their stories leap from long ago forests, jungles, palaces, and villages, to more modern horror in homes and vacation getaways. Terrors within include monsters, spirits, demons, and cannibals. Tones range from sentimental to surreal, gritty to campy. And while I praise the artistic ambition of this world-trekking, time-traveling omnibus of horror and folklore, the viewing experience is unwieldy and a bit underwhelming.

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