Young Nicholas enjoys a seemingly idyllic childhood immersed in the seascape of an isolated coastal town. He is surrounded by lads his own age and blessed with an emotionally frosty yet calmly insulating mother. But where are all the grown men and girls ?
During one of Nicholas’s numerous ocean swims, the sun’s spotlight penetrates the shimmering tidal depths to illuminate a decaying underwater corpse. This gruesome discovery sparks a surreal avalanche of events that threatens to draw back the curtain of reality. Now he must cope with the duel enigmas of boyhood and a sinister medical cabal as warped as it is bizarre.
Lucile Hadžihalilović’s coming of age nightmare Evolution was fermented over a 10 year period in a vat of total artistic control. The resulting concoction is a heady brew of Lovecraftian motifs, body horror exotics, and sinister breeding practices.
Events unfold incognito providing no specific time or location in which the viewer may drop anchor. As such be prepared to drift about for long soporific stretches buffeted occasionally by the wilfully elusive narrative.
The central ethos of the picture may well thrive in this free range environment but be warned, your intellect will be required to do more heavy lifting than Donald Trump’s wig-maker.
We watch as the boys are dosed up on unnecessary tinctures and stuffed with the kind of rancid gruel that even Oliver Twist would artfully dodge. We witness shocking glimpses of clandestine lesbian cluster-fucks involving the aseptically scheming matriarchy. We watch helplessly as the protagonist and his peers are coerced under the blades of unfeasibly unethical medical operations.
None of this will mean a thing if you require the rectal dynamite of James Wan to blow away your horror cobwebs or the hacking bark of the gorehound to keep you awake.
There is no doubt that the stunning cinematography from the implausibly polished Manuel Dacosse is the major player here. Shot in Lanzarote and the Canary Islands Evolution never dips below gorgeous on the aesthetic scale.
The mercurial lensman has a knack for encapsulating the entire intrinsic tendency of a horror movie in intimate detail, such as the ultra-evocative Amer and the empathetically unraveling Alléluia. Here the reiterating contrast between the silently swaying coral tentacles of the deep and the crashing waves above reflects Nicholas’s plight sublimely.
At present, horror cinema is going through its own transitory period that could shape parameters and ambitions for decades to come. Like many releases so far in 2016 Evolution challenges the accepted requirements for garnering a horror green card and will inevitably polarise fright-flick fans.
Smart, darkly brave, daringly poetic filmmaking.
★★★★1/2 | Bradley Hadcroft
Horror, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi| France/Belgium/Spain, 2015 | 81 min | 15 | Metrodome | UK DVD 20th June 2016 | Dir.Lucile Hadzihalilovic | Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier | Buy