Evan Straw (2010) – By Duane L. Martin

Evan Straw, from writer / director Michael Legge, is the story of Alice Marsh, who after surviving a car accident that killed her fiance, buys an old house in a small town and tries to settle in and live her life again.  Unfortunately, the house came with some baggage.  It seems that there’s a ghost in the house named Evan Straw, and everyone in town has heard about it.  The real estate guy (who reminded me of Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall by the way) even told her up front that there were rumors that the house was haunted and that the senile old doctor who owned it three years ago claimed to have seen it, and the waitress in the local diner even told Alice she had seen him sitting in a booth in the diner and talking to it.  Still, undaunted, Alice buys the house and begins to settle in.  That’s when strange things started to happen…things that scared her.  She tells her Aunt Gert what’s going on and she tells Alice about a local psychic she knows named Leocardia (Danielle Gelehrter).  Alice eventually calls her in and after an initial inspection of the house where she has her hair pulled by the ghost, she arranges to come back for an automatic writing session to try to communicate with it.  That went badly, and it was decided that they should bring in someone who could hopefully rid her house of the spirit.  That someone, was Peter Yakov (Michael Legge), a sunglasses wearing ghost hunter who can see auras and vortexes.  But can he determine what’s causing Evan to haunt Alice’s house, and can he help Alice to rid herself of him once and for all?  That’s the question.

I have to admit I didn’t really know what to expect with this film.  I was pleasantly surprised however to have received a paranormal type story to review.  In my opinion, there aren’t enough of these types of films made nowadays.  This particular one had a few problems, but for the most part, it was done up right and the only major problem was the quality of the performances.  The acting is extremely inconsistent.  The quality of the acting ranges from good to horrible and everything in between.  Very little of the dialogue sounds natural.  It mostly sounds memorized and recited.  Being able to pull of natural sounding performances would have gone a long way to making this film near perfect, and also built up more tension with the characters and the events that were happening surrounding the ghost.  The best performance in this film was easily Michael Legge’s portrayal of Russian immigrant and ghost hunter, Peter Yakov.  He had the most natural sounding performance of the entire cast.

Something else I really liked about this film is how it was more or less accurate about various things surrounding ghosts (encounters, channeling,  EVP recording, automatic writing, etc…).  It wasn’t entirely accurate though.  For example, in the EVP session, Peter was talking directly to the entity and getting answers right away.  That’s not how EVP works.  There have been special recorders made that can record and playback at the same time with time spacing in between so you can attempt to interact with the ghost, but it was never stated that that’s what was going on.  The description of what EVP was though was generally accurate.  I was surprised to see the automatic writing scene.  I haven’t heard about automatic writing in a lot of years now and I figured it had largely fallen out of fashion in psychic circles.  So that was kinda cool, and the part where Leocardia channeled the voice of Alice’s dead fiance was pretty cool as well.

What I really liked was the restraint shown in the encounters with the entity.  Most film makers would have been tempted to really go over the top with it, but there was a subtlety to the way it was done in this film.  It was intense in short bursts while being more casual the rest of the time, which really built the tension, because you never knew what the next encounter was going to be like.  The entity itself was kept generally vague as well.  It needed someone in the house, but the reason why was never explained until the end.  I won’t spoil what the entity really was here, but let’s just say it was incredibly creative and something I don’t recall ever seeing in any other film.

The physical encounters with the entity were very well done and ranged from the subtle to the shocking.  One great scene early on had the entity pulling the hair of Leocardia while she was in a room trying to sense his presence.  It was a quick pull and it looked great and exactly like you’d expect it to look.  It didn’t look fake at all.  Another scene had Alice in the shower and the entity quickly wrapped her up with the shower curtain.  The effect was great and very frightening.

One thing I found odd, and I can’t really decide if it was better this way or not, was that there was no music at all in the film.  The proper use of ambient music would have really turned up the creep factor of some scenes, but on the flip side, the film felt more "real" without it, so it’s kind of a toss up for me.  I remember thinking right after I watched it that it really could have used some ambient music to build the tension, but now looking back on it, I’m really torn about it and now I’m thinking it’s fine the way it is, although in the absence of music, better, more natural performances would have really gone a long way to making the film mostly perfect.

The important thing here is that despite the problems, this is actually a really cool film, and one that fans of the paranormal will definitely want to check out.

If you’d like to find out more about this film or pick up a copy for yourself, you can check out the Sideshow Cinema website here.