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John’s Horror Corner: Evolution (2015), an enigmatic, slow burn, mix of medical thriller, mild French body horror and folk horror.

September 12, 2021

MY CALL: This is the kind of film where I struggle to even classify what it is. It’s a slow burn medical thriller, it’s sort of a body horror movie, it’s got some intriguing cultish folk horror vibes… but none of these components come to the expected fruition. This film has its own unique agenda which culminates in largely going unexplained. Probably best left for fans of slowburns and A24-style horror. MORE MOVIES LIKE Evolution: For more slow burn medical mystery horror that takes you in a strange direction, try A Cure for Wellness (2016) or Sputnik (2020).

With the curious oddity of a very patient contemporary folk horror, we find an enclave of young women raising a group of young boys in a rather primitively furnished seaside compound. Their lives seem simple. But something strange is afoot as young Nicholas takes his medicine, told it is because he is weak like a crab after a shell molting; and when he is routinely served what I can only describe as ‘worm porridge’ every day as his maternal keeper vigilantly chaperones his meal; or when she methodically bathes him on the shore after his daily swim. Nicholas is overseen as much like a pet or a patient as he is tended as one’s child, however a maternal oversight remains evident.

Despite an atmosphere where things just don’t seem right, abnormal things are presented in a veil of normalcy. This film isn’t weird like The Lighthouse (2019) or The Apostle (2018)… but more like A Cure for Wellness (2016) with just a cultish dash of Midsommar (2019). Nicholas receives much medical attention of sorts. Something very strange is clearly going on, and it’s right in front of us. We just don’t know what it is.

I feel a strong sense of invasiveness as I witness Nicholas’ treatment, and I mean this both in terms of how he is parented and how he is treated medically. Elixirs, stitches, blood drawing, injections, constant supervision… things get weirder. Like really weird. We wander into something of a medical horror-mystery. What gore we encounter is very medical—e.g., medical procedures or the bloody biproducts thereof.

This slow burn will get you nowhere fast. Yet I felt perpetually intrigued and curious, and I enjoy this kind of film. There aren’t death scenes or monsters; this is a different animal altogether and it does not care to attempt to “excite” you by typical horror movie means.

The ending may provide mere glimpses into the answers we wanted, but won’t truly satisfy. Director Lucile Hadzihalilovic (Earwig, Innocence) doesn’t rely or thrive or revel in her ending. The ending is simply where it ends. I won’t fault it for that. But most of my questions remain very much unanswered, and I had many.

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