The makers of virtual-reality thriller Let’s Be Evil, a horror film about the dangers of living vicariously through smart technology (apropos, given our current Pokémon Go moment), squander an irresistible premise: What if a generation of children weaned on computers grew up to be sadistic monsters?
Co-writer/director Martin Owen downplays his conceit’s most intriguing aspects — where are these kids’ parents? — and instead focuses on monotonous chase scenes that pit a gang of generically creepy tweens against a trio of self-described “chaperones”/teachers led by anxious audience-surrogate Jenny (Elizabeth Morris). These poorly choreographed set pieces are especially disappointing when compared to the atmospheric introductory scenes that establish the claustrophobic world of the Prosperity Project, a subterranean education center for emotionless, hyper-intelligent white children.
Because the story is told from the limited perspective of Jenny and fellow chaperones Darby (Elliot James Langridge) and Tiggs (Kara Tointon), we only learn about Jenny’s kiddie tormentors and her dark past through skimpy expository dialogue, uninspired subjective camerawork, and negligible flashbacks. We also aren’t shown much of the Prosperity Project’s futuristic technology, like the headsets that break down any visible object’s name, location, and biological composition through Terminator-style pop-up windows.
Jenny’s lack of interest in her virtual-reality spectacles makes no sense given that, as she explores the Prosperity Project’s pitch-black corridors, she needs her glasses to illuminate anything in front of her face. Let’s Be Evil’s vision of the future is similarly tantalizing but shortsighted.
Let’s Be Evil
Directed by Martin Owen
Opens August 5, IFC Center