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FBI agent Griff Krenshaw (Richard Speight Jr.), makes a serious mistake on a raid and after his supervisor chews him out, assigns him to a case where he can’t do any harm, investigating the strange death of a doctor at a unique prison for inmates shown to possess a rare gene. Identified as the HSS-282 Gene, it is associated with extreme behaviors, including violence and psychotic mental instability. The job seems routine until Krenshaw arrives and there is question as to whether the doctor’s demise is a suicide or a murder, as a number of odd circumstances lead him to suspect something is very off center.
Suffering from his own depression and medicated for his PTSD concerning a haunted past, he works with prison doctor Dr. Dana Ehrhart (Cameron Richardson), who is doing clinical research that will give the participating prisoners a reprieve if they follow the medical treatment. Soon enough though, Krenshaw, holding up at the dark and isolated prison, begins to suffer from hallucinations, seeing photographs on the wall morph into harrowing images and even a very familiar man with black holes for eyes wandering the halls. Popping pills doesn’t help, but he keeps on the job and his interviews with prisoners have him wondering if their confessions how lucifer himself is infesting the facility might actually be true.
Directed (and written) by Kathryn F. Taylor, in her debut, The Evil Gene is an independent film with a small cast that, given its genre, is filled with the standard jump scare tropes and plotting, but still manages to be compelling, mostly due to some solid performances and a good script. At a brisk 78 minutes, the film doesn’t spend a lot of time on character development but sticks mostly the action and story, which is decidedly clever, where a doctor’s research has him believing the Devil’s mark is not a superficial visible one but one that is genetic, allowing for the passage of demons to pass from body to body without being contained within the host. That’s an intriguing premise and one that despite a legion of films based on the same themes of demonic possession still feels fresh.
There are some issues with supporting characters, including an obvious, cantankerous FBI Director (Lindsay Ayliffe) who delivers most of his lines in anger or spite, a suspicious, uncaring warden (Lindsey Ginter) who is nothing but a hurdle for our hero, and a few unconvincing mental patients, but these are minor concerns. Ted Heyck, playing the prison priest, is most effective, giving the clichéd character some nice depth. Both leads are also good with Speight Jr. well-cast as the troubled agent.
Overall, The Evil Gene is a well-made, solidly directed film that offers a few good twists on a familiar theme. Available on DVD and VOD September 6, this is a pre-release review.
Director: Kathryn F. Taylor
Writers: Kathryn F. Taylor, Kathryn F. Taylor
Stars: Richard Speight Jr., Cameron Richardson, Lindsey Ginter