Scientists and philosophers have long pondered what makes some people act violent and evil for no apparent reason, as though they were simply born bad. In THE EVIL GENE, the first film from writer/director Kathryn F. Taylor science has isolated the gene responsible. Now that they’ve isolated it, what to do about it becomes the question.
FBI agent Griff Krenshaw (Richard Speight Jr. probably best known for stints on tv’s SUPERNATURAL) manages to botch a case and is sent to a federal prison being used to study criminals with the so called “evil gene”. It seems the head scientist died in a suspicious suicide and he’s been sent to tidy it all up. Dr. Dana Ehrhart (Cameron Richardson RISE: BLOOD HUNTER, HOLY GHOST PEOPLE) and Father Warren (Ted Heyck SCORPIO ’70) have their own ideas about what’s going on and Warden Sweeny (Lindsey Ginter GATTACA) just wants it all swept under the rug. But when new inmate Juan Morales (Anthony L. Fernandez CLOSE RANGE) arrives things take a turn into some very dark places.
This could have been a fairly straight up mystery, instead Taylor uses the central idea as a jumping off point, exploring everything from the nature of good and evil to the morality of profiling and possibly locking up people based on the probability of them becoming dangerous. The film does this while maintaining itself as a very creepy sci-fi/horror hybrid. Nothing is ever what it appears to be here, what at first seems to have a rational, scientific explanation suddenly becomes an occult appearance event or vice-versa and the viewer and Krenshaw are constantly caught off base trying to find the truth.
For somebody with no previous credits Taylor does a great job keeping the story moving and avoiding becoming obvious about what is going on. The final twist in the film’s closing minutes may annoy some people but it is logical and not one you’ll see coming. It also avoids becoming preachy or shrill with it’s religious aspects and political positions, a common fault in films especially from first time film makers. A lawyer in her day job, Taylor has some real potential as a filmmaker.
She’s given a big boost from Speight, who delivers an excellent performance as the agent caught in the middle of everything. He has to play strong enough to be a credible hero, but show enough of of his inner demons and troubled past that we still fear he could fail. And he does it brilliantly, especially the scenes where he has to confront the specter of his dead brother leaving us questioning if he’s seeing ghosts or losing his mind. Richardson is also solid as the scientist with whom he becomes involved, adding both a humanizing touch and a source of tension.
THE EVIL GENE will be released to VOD and on DVD by Uncork’d Entertainment on September 6th, 2016. It’s an excellent film and the debut of a promising new talent. I’ll be adding the hard copy to my collection and I’d recommend at least seeing it on VOD.
THE EVIL GENE Trailer: