Roughly the first third of writer-director Samuel Galli’s debut feature “Our Evil” alternates long, slow-paced conversations with graphic images of a hired assassin torturing women. It’s such a self-conscious collision of arthouse and grindhouse that some viewers may bail out early — and understandably so.
But those who make it through that first half-hour will find “Our Evil” mellows considerably, becoming quietly haunting. This almost unclassifiable Brazilian horror film is one of the most assured, unconventional genre pictures of recent years.
The assassin, named Charles (Ricardo Casella), advertises his services on the dark web with a video of himself scalping a bound, writhing victim. That’s how Arthur (Ademir Esteves) finds him, hiring Charles to commit a murder before an unusually specific deadline.
After the job is done, Charles watches a video from Arthur, which takes up most of the film’s second half, enhanced by flashbacks. In it, Arthur explains how he was tormented by his ability to commune with supernatural forces, before learning to use his gifts to help others. Charles’ latest hit was part of a larger plan … as gradually becomes terrifyingly clear.
“Our Evil” relies on static, unbroken takes, in scenes that do drag on. But the off-kilter chronology and the abrupt shift from serial killer splatter to tragic tales of demons and ghosts make this more than an endurance test. The surprises Galli has in store for the patient — and for the strong-of-stomach — echo his film’s themes. This is ultimately a story about taking something appalling and putting it to inspired use.
In Portuguese with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Starts May 10, Laemmle Glendale, Glendale; also on VOD