Admirably imaginative but frustratingly clunky, the sci-fi thriller “Let’s Be Evil” is a technophobic cautionary tale that ironically demonstrates how fancy new digital filmmaking tools make a low-budget project look spiffy.
Elizabeth Morris (who also co-wrote the script) stars as Jenny, an industrious young lady who takes an unusual child-care job, agreeing to live in an underground scientific facility to look after kids raised entirely in a virtual-reality environment. In addition to two friendly co-workers, Jenny has the constant help of a seemingly omniscient computer program called ARIAL (short for Augmented Reality Integrated Advanced Learning).
Co-writer/director Martin Owen spends too much time setting up the situation, via long, awkwardly expository conversations. Once everything starts going awry — with children rebelling and electronics failing — the scant locations and mostly stiff performances undercut scenes that should be more pulse-pounding.
Still, “Let’s Be Evil” has a likable lead in Morris’ Jenny, and a fascinating supporting character in Cassandra (Isabelle Allen), a curious youngster who initially seems damaged by a lifetime spent online, away from the real world.
A strong twist ending and a creative use of effects helps “Let’s Be Evil” overcome its limitations. The movie suggests that excessive Internet connectivity is warping young minds, but by framing most of the story through the eyes of characters wearing VR goggles, Owen brings a fresh perspective to what could’ve been a routine genre piece.
‘Let’s Be Evil’
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood