• The Field Guide To Evil (Umbrella Entertainment) DVD Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: October 12th, 2019.
    Director: Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland, Yannis Veslemes
    Cast: Marlene Hauser, Luzia Oppermann, Karin Pauer, Birgit Minichmayr, Katrina Dashner, Andrzej Konopka
    Year: 2018
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    The Field Guide To Evil – Movie Review:

    A recent anthology horror picture from the people who put together the popular A/B/C’s Of Death picture, The Field Guide To Evil presents eight short films in an interesting anthology that clearly drinks from the folk horror well. Given that the different filmmakers assembled from this project come not just from different cultures but in some cases different continents, there’s a lot to pull from here, culturally speaking, and the results are pretty solid.

    The first entry in the picture is from Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, the team behind Goodnight Mommy. This Austrian duo’s story is called The Sinful Woman of Hollifal and is set in an unnamed European country some time in the 1500’s. Here, two young women buck against socio-political doctrine and get involved in a same sex relationship. One of the girls’ mothers warns that their acts will summon a demon called The Trud and shortly thereafter, their luck definitely takes a turn for the worse. This is beautifully shot and very well-acted. It’s dark and atmospheric but not so bleak that it’ll bring you down. It’s a great way to start the film out on a very strong footing and one of the best entries in the picture.

    Up next is Al Karisi, The Childbirth Djinn, from Turkish director Can Evrenol, the man behind Baskin. In this story, a young woman, who is quite clearly great with child, is tasked with caring for an aging, bedridden relative. When she winds up taking possession of an old family charm, this allows a demon to come into the family home, a demon that is clearly after her child. Again, this one is a strong entry. The story is creepy and effectively told, the visuals are quite strong and the performances work very well in the context of the story being told here.

    Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska, who made The Lure, is up next with The Kindler And The Virgin. This one wastes no time getting started as an older man comes face to face with an aggressive ghost who promises him all he could ever want if he does one thing for her – eat three human hearts. This is the goriest of the entries in the film but so too is it one of the most striking. The imagery here is excellent, the ghost in particular is really well done, and again we get some pretty solid acting.

    Calvin Reeder, an American director who contributed to V/H/S, delivers Beware The Melonheads, a story set in the Midwestern United States. The Melonheads in the title are a gang of killer kids with… weird giant heads who wind up going after a family unfortunate enough to wander into their territory. This one is entertaining enough but the mix of humor and horror is uneven and the story is a fairly predictable one. Still, the effects are done well and there are some weirdly effective moments here.

    Up next is Whatever Happened To Panagas The Pagan, directed by Yannis Veslemes, a Norwegian composer and short filmmaker. This entry is a good one, it tells the story of a strange little demon that travels from Hell up to the Earths’ surface to hang out with humans and celebrate Christmas! There’s a good sense of humor to this and some seriously weird visuals. The story also has an interesting twist to it that we won’t spoil here.

    Indian filmmaker Ashim Ahluwalia, who directed Miss Lovely, contributes Palace Of Horrors. Here, in this black and white short, we travel to the beginning of the twentieth century and meet a man who makes his living collecting freaks for the circus. When he gets word of a holy person that he’s not even allowed to lay eyes on, well, he can’t resist that and so he does what he can to get a look and, of course, it doesn’t end well. This one mixes a bit of freak show culture with some interesting religious and moral trappings and pretty nicely. The black and white visuals are well played and help it to stand out a bit from the rest of the stories.

    Katrin Gebbe, the German director behind Nothing Bad Can Happen, is the woman behind the excellent A Nocturnal Breath. This story revolves around a brother/sister farming team that get mixed up with a diseased spirit that manifests as a rat. As the spirit starts killing off the farm animals, the farmers try to figure out what they can do to stop this. This is slower in its pacing than the others but it’s eerie and foreboding in all the right away and again, the visuals are pretty impressive.

    Last but not least, English filmmaker Peter Strickland, of Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke Or Burgundy, delivers The Cobbler’s Lot and finishes the anthology on a very strong note. It’s essentially a fairy tale where two brothers, who work as cobblers, fall for the same woman, a beautiful princess. In order to win her affections, they find themselves competing against one another in a series of unusual challenges that take place in a forest. Shot and put together like a classic silent film, complete with intertitles, this is the best of the shorts in the feature. It’s beautiful to look at and the story, while it might sound a tad hokey based on the description above, carries some pretty serious impact with it. Great stuff.

    The Field Guide To Evil – DVD Review:

    Umbrella Entertainment presents The Field Guide To Evil on DVD framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks pretty nice. Quality does vary a bit between stories, but these all look to have been shot digitally. As such, there’s no dirt or damage or not. Detail is fine for a standard definition presentation. There are some minor compression artifacts in some of the darker scenes but color reproduction is generally pretty strong.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track on the disc is also fine. For the stretches that are not spoken in English, white English subtitles automatically appear on the screen. Dialogue is generally pretty clean and clear. The track is nicely balanced and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note.

    There are no extra features on this DVD.

    The Field Guide To Evil – The Final Word:

    The Field Guide To Evil should appeal to those with an affinity for folk horror – if that subgenre is your thing, give this a look. Not every story is as good as the next but overall, this works quite well and there’s a lot of strong talent behind the camera here. Umbrella’s DVD is barebones but it looks and sounds nice enough. Recommended.