Two things you should probably know before investing your time in Problem of Evil. One: The first few seconds of the film tell the audience there is no God. Two: the film is presented in a faux-documentary, “found footage” format. The first thing’s no big issue with me, as long as the story’s good. It’s the second thing I usually have a problem with. Thankfully, the filmmakers have produced this one with a fair amount of quality.
We open on our hero Jason (Ethan Kogan), a struggling filmmaker and widower. After getting dumped by his therapist, Jason’s friend Pete (Jeffy Branion) calls him up with a last minute job. This is where we’re introduced to an unnamed cult, as Jason and Pete interview various followers of a mysterious man who claims to be an angel. “Jason falls down a rabbit hole of doubt, distress and paranoia, while seeking answers about how this group knows who he is and what they want from him.” We meet spiritual leaders, ex members, and various other characters along the way.
First-time director Ethan Kogan teams up with Jessica Silvetti as they set their sights pretty high with this movie, assisted by a cast of talented actors. The writers describe Problem of Evil as “contemplative cinema,” appealing to a niche market, but available to a wide audience with its themes of loss of love and faith.
Kogan and Silvetti crowd-funded the film’s sound design on Kickstarter, which seems to have really paid off. Every aspect of the movie embodies the term “micro,” even with its somewhat large narrative scope. But the talent involved here results in a polished and well-made piece of filmmaking.
Problem of Evil sounds great on paper, but it suffers in its scenes. Particularly, the “down the rabbit hole” part of the story, which I can’t help but see as an excuse for a disconnected and random second act. It deals with some hefty themes, but the drama never escalates, making any of the brief scenes of suspense somewhat lackluster. What’s missing is a genuine journey of Jason connecting the dots. Even real documentaries have journeys, they aren’t just information, and Problem of Evil suffers from a lot of “just information,” no matter how many flashback scenes of Jason’s wife are interspersed throughout.
It probably has the best rating on IMDb I’ve ever seen, though. Does that make me a nonbeliever?