The Evangelist (2017) – By Paul Busetti


There is a scene late in Joseph Pepitone’s horror film “The Evangelist” in which Detective Legros (Michael Billy) marches into the police captain’s office (definitely not just a spare room in some suburban New Jersey home), finds the captain doing cocaine on his desk, makes a “Scarface” reference, steals evidence kept in a Ziplock freezer bag kept on the top of a filing cabinet, and then punches the captain. This scene about sums up the subtle tone of the film.

A brief prologue in 1990 shows a domestic murder and the young boy who witnesses it from his bed. Flash forward to present day Barefoot Beach New Jersey where the killings have started again and the police has to decide whether the original killer has returned or if this is the work of a copycat. The film’s 75 minute running time is split between Horton (Keith Collins), a bible obsessed, cookie baking, wine cooler drinking Norman Bates clone who brings any sinners he comes across into his killing room basement and the motley crew of detectives in the Barefoot Beach Police Department. These detectives include Vance (Doug Bollinger), the grizzled, curmudgeonly alcoholic, and young new transplant Legros who works out at his desk with yoga ball and dumbbells. There is a running gag of Vance constantly referencing 70’s TV cop shows that Legros has never heard of that has to be admired at least for its persistence. As a police procedural, it ranks as one of the most inept. The cops in Barefoot Beach consider the internet to be “voodoo” and drink red wine at their desks. At one point, Legros looks at a crime scene photo and exclaims “gross. “.

Horton tries to get help from Dr. Cooper (Samantha Artese), a psychiatrist who he becomes infatuated with. She is the least broad of all the characters and is necessary to bring the bungling cops to the killer. She becomes the de facto protagonist late in the film as all the characters stumble into the bloody denouement.

Filmed in the Garden State, this is one of the New Jerseyist movies I’ve ever seen. Macho posturing, a reference to the 2003 Jersey Devils hockey season, and­ ­a cast that looks like a collection of all the guys killed in Season 1 of the Sopranos. The only way it could have been more Jersey is if the police station was staffed by Frankie Valli and Derrick Coleman.

The two halves of the narrative are tonally and technically at odds. The scenes following Horton and Dr. Cooper are more nuanced and thoughtfully photographed. The scenes at the precinct are flatly staged and shot.

“The Evangelist” is a fun B movie. Bad special effects, some T & A, wooden acting, and a cameo from former Guns ‘N Roses guitarist Bumblefoot (who also scored the film). Grab some beers and enjoy this pseudo religious slasher hamfest.