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  • Rev Horror

History of Evil

Dir. Bo Mirhosseni (2024)

A group of "terrorists" are on the run from a near-future authoritarian US government. They choose a house haunted by the evils of the past as their hideout.

Boy, this movie is going to piss a lot of people off.

When I started my site several years ago, I did my best to avoid any political commentary to try not to alienate my potential audience and because, for the most part, there was very little good that the opinions of a two-bit horror movie reviewer could do in a world that was relatively divided but with both sides trying their best to look out for their populace in their own way. With the rise of Trump and identity politics, however, it became harder and harder to remain silent, and I took the gloves off during the 2022 midterms because I felt it was important that I placed myself on the right side of history. Since then, the world has only become more chaotic, and I'm sure the next year will extend that as we approach one of the most important elections of our lives. We're choosing between one side that, while it has its faults, is the status quo, career politicians who know what they're doing even if you don't agree with it. Meanwhile, the other side has openly talked about repealing the Constitution and establishing an authoritarian dictatorship in efforts to crack down on political opponents and erase any progress our country has achieved in the last two hundred years. So they're different.

Enter History of Evil.

"Terrorists" Alegre (Jackie Cruz), her husband Ron (Paul Wesley), and their daughter Daria (Murphee Bloom) are on the run from an authoritarian United States government run at the local level by militia members who shoot first and ask questions later. They decide to hole up in an old farmhouse that is rumored to be haunted in an effort to avoid the people looking for them, and of course it isn't long before the ghosts of the past begin making themselves known. As the trio and their handler Trudy (Rhonda Johnson Dents) wait for the pickup that will bring them to the rebel base so that they can continue their fight against the fascists, things become increasingly more dangerous as the deceased owner of the house tries to influence Ron into becoming exactly what the group is fighting against.

It's interesting to see a horror movie with this political basis, especially so soon after this world nearly became a reality. The Christofascist government at the heart of the story allows no interpretation as to their origins, with the militia members wearing J6 patches right on their chests as they make those trying to pass through checkpoints swear on a digital Bible. We know from where this government descends from the beginning, despite the film never going into how the world wound up this way. It's a great concept, terrifying in its implications and potential, but it's also one that isn't fully fleshed out in the way that would have made it most effective. We knows the state the country is in, of course, but we never delve too deeply into that (perhaps more interesting) conversation, with the movie becoming more of a prototypical haunted house tale before too long.

With more than one reference to The Shining, History of Evil quickly devolves into becoming more about the potentiality of evil and the ways that the sins of the past lie dormant in the minds of the present than it does about a dystopian future. It's not difficult to imagine the world ending up this way, but it is a little harder to imagine a loving father and husband being led down the road to self-destructive fascism simply because a ghost tells him to. It's an interesting concept, to be sure: the ease at which people fell into political and humanitarian views that they otherwise would never have entertained within the last several years is frightening as hell, and it's something that is rife for commentary and analysis. In that regards, History of Evil does a great job of being scarier underneath than it does on the surface level. The major problem with that narrative is that it isn't handled in a way that makes it as realistic, instead depending on horror tropes rather than a straightforward view of the groupthink that has become a reality for so many.

This isn't a huge knock against the film, however, as it is quite effective in its ghost story while being sufficiently creepy throughout. Conceptually, I would have preferred it to focus more on the governmental and societal perspectives that it teases, but that wouldn't have made for much of a horror movie. The execution of the story is lacking at some points, and it definitely leans too heavily into its King-esque roots, but it's not a bad film. The societal fears, made present by the ghostly homeowner who feels right out of the 50's (whether 1850's or 1950's is hard to parse), is a bit on-the-nose at times but nonetheless effective. It's perhaps not as effective as it could be, but it's an interesting watch and a story that we haven't really seen told before. It's fairly likely that this movie is going to offend the hell out of some people, but also, fuck those people because they're traitors. Give it a watch on Shudder and let me know what you think.

Who this movie is for: Social horror lovers, Haunted house fans, Q

Bottom line: While History of Evil doesn't do quite as much as it should with its source material, it's an interesting ghost story filled with sociopolitical implications. It's got some decent scares on the surface, while the underlying narrative of the fascist dystopia hits awfully close to home. The movie is streaming on Shudder tomorrow, and I definitely recommend checking it out.


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