"If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration".
The above quote belongs to physicist, electrical engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla. It's this observation which opens up INSTRUMENTS OF EVIL. It's perhaps the only smidgeon of sane comment you're going to get during the following 94 minutes...
A deep, earnest male narration introduces us to an animated history of time, in which he learn of how a bust-up among the Norse Gods resulted in a vengeful Loki mustering four musical demons - one of voice, one of strings, one of percussion, and one of wind - to wreak havoc upon his enemies, only for Odin to retaliate by banishing them to four quarters of the Earth. In turn, Loki's response was to create a curse which dictated that, should the demons one day reconvene on Earth, their combined powers will join together and result in the end of the world.
All Odin could do to prevent such a terrible thing potentially happening was send a timeless warrior known only as the Dark Viking (writer-director Huw D Evans) to Earth in a quest to locate and slay each demon...
And so we follow the Dark Viking as he scours the Canadian streets, staring at an ancient mystical tablet which doubles up as a primitive tracking device. We learn from the narration that, in 1948, the dim but stubborn Viking caught up with the demon of wind and successfully slaughtered them. Now, in the present day, he still has the other three to locate and kill. Which brings him to the town of Saskatoon, where he believes the devils to be residing.
Sure enough, the action then centres on a local police station where we meet bungling sergeant Henry (Rich Belhumeur), who's enjoying an afternoon nap while waiting for an evening arrival of evidence in a trio of connected murder trials. The evidence, we learn, is being gathered from various sources so that it can be stockpiled in one location. There are three loads of evidence expected. Can you guess what evils may be tucked away in each box of evidence?
The first box of evidence arrives. As Henry and his deputy start rifling through its contents, they come across a vinyl record which reveals that this evidence relates to a case for the 1980s known in the media as the "Hip-Hop Zombies" case. Which is a perfect point for us to leave the wraparound tale for a while and launch into the first of three anthology-type shorts.
"Hip-Hop Zombies" initially transports us back to 1985. We're in a small recording studio and out-of-step producer Max Wax can't understand why his latest artist, DJ Daddy Long Legs (Dylan Evans), is "talking" instead of singing. Alas, the tribal drumming racket coming from the neighbouring voodoo shop is accidentally picked up on Wax's recording and, following an altercation between him and his neighbours, this spells bad news for anyone who plays Daddy's resultant single.
This brings us back closer to the present day, introducing us to a young couple who stumbled across the record in a thrift store. Inevitably this leads to a gory graveyard confrontation with a trio of hip-hop-loving zombies - but not before a spot of mugging, terrible break-dancing, bare breasts, an argument over whether one character is a hipster, and the rat poison-sniffing exploits of wonderfully named street urchin Ice Trey (Ashraf Ogram). As the Viking advances ever nearer to the police station, we witness Henry take delivery of another box of evidence. This particular box contains a violin said to have a history of compelling its owners to kill. Which leads us nicely into our second short story/flashback: "Gratuitous Violins"...
In this, a young couple drive through the night on their way to visit friends for Christmas. When they pull over so the girl (Jackie Block) can take a piss, they're both accosted and abducted by an ominous figure in a red cape: the Sinister Violinister (Brock Andrews). When they next awake, they find themselves chained to pipes in a large bathroom area a la SAW. Their captor, the Violinister, now wears an exaggerated riff on the SCREAM mask as he taunts them with his plans for their slow demise. All he wants, he tells them, is to indulge in their "pain and suffering". His self-made "table of torture" does indeed look suitably intimidating - an unsightly welding-together of various chainsaws and rotating saw blades. Alas, it's not as effective as the Violinister had hoped and soon he's having to improvise a Plan B.
As with any nefarious captor/torturer, the Violinister has a back-story which he must share with his intended victims, offering some explanation as to why he came to be this way. It all stems back to an event which occurred in 1983, when ... ah, you'll have to watch it to find out!
Next, we're back in the police station where officer Cooper delivers the third and final consignment of evidence. There's a drum-kit in his box and, yes, he has a story attached to it. "It all started with a lousy metal band" he begins.
And so, we embark on the final short story: "Heavy Metal Devil". This centres on an aspiring band of rockers called The Flame Demons who are booked to play a headline concert at local club Danny's Inferno. Unfortunately the promoter gets wind of a better band, Hard & Faust, being available and suddenly relegates The Flame Demons to support act. Worse still, the revised promotional posters misspell their name as The Lame Demons.
Not to be disheartened, the band resolves to go ahead with the gig anyway and try their best to blow the main act off the stage. Hmm, they last one song before the crowd boos them off. Hard & Faust, of course, go down an absolute storm in comparison.
As The Flame Demons reconvene backstage at the end of the night to bemoan their fate, Satan (Stacy DeVille) appears in the room and offers to give them what they wish for - in return for a blood sacrifice...
Of course, Faustian tales of this nature never, ever end well...
Come the end of the film, we get to see if the Viking has made it to the police station - and what the repercussions of having all three of the demons' evil instruments together in one place may be.
INSTRUMENTS OF EVIL is a hoot. Shot on HD in the small Canadian town of Saskatoon, it's clearly a low-budget affair. But I say this in the most positive way: the film makes the most of its budgetary limitations, embracing its array of cheesy lines, bad actors and fake gore in most entertaining fashion.
Production design is always colourful and attractive, giving off a slightly cartoonish vibe in keeping with the lurid 60s and 70s B-movies Evans is paying homage to. Musically, Dylan Evans does a fine job of providing an eclectic, energetic score which traverses everything from classical to hip-hop to power metal, and beyond.
The script from Huw, with contributions from Curtis Anderson and Douglas Evans, is witty and fast-paced at all times. The jokes verge between the painfully dumb and the deceptively smart, pitching the humour somewhere along the lines of a top-tier Troma production. The cast, as mentioned above, can't really act for toffee. But that's okay, the tone of the film requires nothing more than spirited performances - and that's certainly what you get here.
The special effects are unconvincing, but agreeably so. Cheap and trashy is the vibe Evans is going for here, in a cheery celebration of everything "grind". To this end, we get decapitations, axe murders, gut-munching and a stand-out face-ripping which is actually quite impressive. It's all too silly to ever be nasty, of course.
Consistently inventive, full of agreeable energy and never, ever dull, INSTRUMENTS OF EVIL is a perfect party film for those nights you and your mates just fancy a few beers and the craziest new film you can lay your hands on.
INSTRUMENTS OF EVIL has been self-released by the movie's production company, Eyecatcher Video. This attractively packaged and well-authored disc is a region-free affair, playable worldwide.
The film itself gets the uncut treatment, naturally, and looks great in a vivid, pin-sharp and clean 16x9 presentation. Colours are striking, detail is remarkable and there is no digital noise in evidence.
English audio comes in a keenly balanced, clear and consistent stereo mix. Dialogue and music are served equally well, while the inventive sound design gets a reliable audible representation throughout.
The disc opens to a colourful, punkish static main menu page. From there, a static scene selection menu allows access to the film via 24 chapters.
Bonus materials begin with 2 minutes worth of deleted scenes (three in total). While these are fun and tonally in keeping with the rest of the film, it's easy to appreciate why they were seen as being surplus to requirements.
A 7-minute blooper reel offers a raucous, fast-paced selection of outtakes which see props behaving badly, actors fluffing their lines, copious corpsing and even the occasional moment of slightly surreal madness.
The film's original trailer runs for just over 2 minutes. Gore, rock music and an exaggeratedly excitable male voiceover help this speedily paced preview sell the film to the right audience.
All of which is great, though I'd have really liked there to have been an audio commentary track. The more bonkers the film, the more intrigued I am in hearing where the director's head was at. And I'd certainly love to know what Mr Evans was thinking ... or at least what he was smoking!
INSTRUMENTS OF EVIL is cheap, trashy, silly ... it's also wildly creative and a whole lot of fun. If you like films such as THE TOXIC AVENGER, CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL or THE GRUESOME DEATH OF TOMMY PISTOL, then you should definitely give this one a go.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Eyecatcher Video|